Anxiety Counseling for Perfectionism: Why College Students need it more than Ever, Part

An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year. An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

An estimated 31.9% of adolescents ages 13-18 have had an anxiety disorder .

Perfectionism in Today’s College Students:

According to the American Psychological Association, the drive to be perfect in mind, body, and career is on the rise, compared to prior generations. This rise in perfectionism is taking a toll on mental wellbeing.

Researchers performed a recent study looking at generational differences in perfectionism, which they define as “an irrational desire to achieve, along with being overly critical of oneself and others”.

For this study, Dr. Curran and Dr. Hill analyzed data from over 40,000 American, Canadian, and British College students who complete the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale. This scale tests for generational changes in perfectionism.

They measured all three types of perfectionism: 1. Self-oriented, which is basically setting unattainable standards for yourself, then criticizing when you do not reach the impossible standards. 2. Socially prescribed perfectionism- Thinking others are holding you to an impossible standards of perfection. 3. Other-oriented perfectionism- Placing unattainable standards of perfection on others. In other words, expecting others to be perfect.

The study found that the more recent generations of college students have higher scores for all three types of perfectionism.

Self-prescribed perfectionism is up 10%.

Socially prescribed perfectionism is up 33%.

Other-oriented perfectionism has increased by 16%.

Researchers have several ideas about why they are seeing these increases. Their raw data reveals that social media use increases comparison to others, leaving individuals dissatisfied with their bodies.

Pressure to get a good education (or great one) and lofty career goals are other areas in which today’s college students exhibit perfectionism.

No one wants to be average, because they are all seeing the highlight reels of others. They are seeing the best moments from other peoples’ lives and comparing them to the normal or mundane parts of theirs.

Our brains tend to encourage us to compare what we think are the worst parts of ourselves to the most outstanding part of someone else. This can lead to obsessing about what we need to fix about ourselves.

There is more societal pressure placed on more recent generations when it comes to education. In 1976, only one half (50%) of high school seniors expected to earn a degree from a college or university.

By the year 2008, this number rose to 80%.

Researchers determined that recent generations of college students are competing with each other in order to meet societal expectations of success. They think they must strive for perfection in order to stay socially connected and be of worth.

Researchers agree that the increase in perfectionism could be affecting the psychological health of our students.

It is true that college students are experiencing higher levels of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts than ever before.

Anxiety Counseling for Perfectionism

Empower Counseling offers anxiety counseling for perfectionism. Kathryn, Adam, and Kristine are all trained in Acceptance Commitment Therapy, a scientifically proven anxiety treatment. ACT can help you move away from anxiety and perfectionism and toward a more peaceful and content life. We offer anxiety and perfectionism counseling to teens and college students, including students at Samford University, Birmingham-Southern College, Auburn University and the University of Alabama. Empower also offers anxiety and perfectionism counseling to young adults and professionals. Call Empower today if you are a perfectionist and need help 205-730-6570.

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