Episode #150: How Perfectionism Can Lead to Depression and Anxiety + Tips on How to Stop the Toxic Perfectionism Cycle (Interview with Psychologist Dr. Margaret Rutherford)

April 11, 2020

We all know we should try our best and strive for excellence in everything we do, but what happens when this desire to do well turns toxic? In this podcast, I speak to clinical psychologist Dr. Margaret Rutherford about how perfectionism can be another manifestation of depression, what to do when our desire to succeed becomes destructive, why we need to learn, rather than fear, our failures and useful techniques to overcome perfectionist tendencies.

In her new book, Perfectly-Hidden Depression, Margaret notes how many perfectionists often don’t acknowledge or know that they are depressed, or that their desire to succeed in every area of their lives is a coping strategy to deal with past hurts and trauma. Many do not have what are considered “normal” traits of depression, that is feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Indeed, in a number of cases they do not know how to express uncomfortable or painful feelings and emotions, and tend to talk about what they have gone through in a very detached way.

This type of perfectionism is different from striving for excellence, which is more process-orientated and encourages you to learn from your mistakes. Perfectly-hidden depression, on the other hand, is fueled by fear and shame. Toxic perfectionism tends to be goal-orientated, and sees failure as a sign of worthlessness, which puts intense pressure on someone’s performance, compelling them to constantly do better and hide their mistakes.

Read the full episode blog and transcript here:


 Podcast Highlights:

1:58 What is perfectly hidden depression?

7:25 The role of the therapist is not to fix people

10:49 What is perfectionism?

17:34, 27:20 Ten main traits of perfectly-hidden depression

19:36: How is this different from other forms of depression

38:00 The first step to healing is acknowledging that there is a problem 

42:01 Tips and techniques to deal with perfectionism

40:05 Helping child or teen battling with perfectly-hidden depression  

52:10 Social media and perfectionism 


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