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The Correlation Between Perfectionism and Depression Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 30th, 2022

The correlation between perfectionism and depression has been shown to exist by many researchers. Dr. Paul Hewitt, a practicing psychologist and professor at the University of British Columbia states that perfectionism is a risk factor for anorexia, suicide and unipolar depression (Benson, 2003).

Perfectionism in its different varieties is differently linked to psychopathology. Socially prescribed perfectionism, the belief that people will only value someone if they are perfect has been linked with depression and suicide. This kind of perfectionism has elements of pressure, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. A socially prescribed perfectionist feels he/she is expected to perform better and better (Benson, 2003). Other types of perfectionists are other-oriented perfectionists and self-oriented perfectionists. Self-oriented perfectionists set standards that are too high for themselves to the extent that they are impossible. Other oriented perfectionists have a tendency to set very rigid and high standards for friends and family (Cook, 2002). Self-oriented perfectionism predisposes an individual to psychological disorders while other-oriented perfectionism is likely to create problems in relationships especially intimate ones (Benson, 2003).

Rumination is another predisposing factor to depression, a study carried out by Lavender and Watkins confirms that rumination increases negative future thinking in depression. The study compared depressed and non-depressed participants who were assigned randomly to either rumination or distraction manipulation.The depressed patients had higher levels of negative cognitive biases compared to the non-depressed patients (Lavender and Watkins, 2004).

Another study carried out in the University of Berne further demonstrates the link between rumination and depression. Depression is associated with feelings of guilt and shame. Orth, Berking and Burkhardt hypothesize that rumination is elicited by shame which then contributes to the development of depression. The investigation which studied event-related rumination, event-related shame and guilt and depression in 149 mothers and fathers after marital separation showed that shame was maladaptive and increased rumination, a risk factor for depression, (Orth, Berking and Burkhard, 2006)

Major depression is more prevalent in women than men. Even with varying definitions and measurement tools for depression, depression is still found to occur at a higher rate in women than men across different cultures (Seeman, 1995)

As puberty begins, the incidence of depression in females begins to increase as compared to males. This trend continues into adulthood with a peak at perimenopause. After menopause, the incidence goes back to similar levels with men. A biological model explains this higher incidence by stating that gender differences in depression are due to the hormones estrogen and progesterone (Seeman, 1995).

The environmental model explains that, because women experience more stressful situations in their lives they are more likely to experience depression. Factors in the environment likely to contribute to women’s higher depression rates include higher incidence of sexual abuse both as children and adults, conflicting roles at the workplace and at home and sexual discrimination at home and at work. The fact that women have higher psychological vulnerability to negative relationships makes women more likely to develop depression than men (Murakumi, 2002).

Some researchers argue that women react to stressful situations by ruminating, while men try not to think about the stressful situation. (Murakumi, 2002). Nolen-Hoeksema, from results of a study found that respondents who scored high in rumination levels had higher chances of developing depression, showing that rumination was a vulnerability factor for depression. (Noelen-Hoeksema, 2000).

Perfectionism, rumination and the female gender are all vulnerability factors for depression as evidenced by research. They are also factors that exacerbate depression. An individual who is a perfectionist will likely be involved in a lot of rumination predisposing them further to depression. Women are more likely to ruminate than men and as such have a greater likelihood of developing depression.

References

  1. Benson E, 2003, , Monitor on Psychology, APA Online. Web.
  2. Cook M 2002, Lab Probes Perfectionism For Links with Depression, UBC Reports, vol 48 No2.
  3. Lavender A and Watkins E, 2004, Rumination and Future Thinking In Depression, British Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol 43, no 2, 2004, pp. 129-142 (14), British Psychological Society.
  4. Murakami J, 2002, , Perspectives in Psychology. Web.
  5. Noelen-Hoeksema, S. 2000, The role of Rumination in depressive disorders and mixed anxiety/depressive symptoms, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109 (3), 504-511.
  6. Orth U, Berking M and Burkhardt S, 2006, Self-conscious Emotions and Depression: Rumination Explains Why Shame But not Guilt is Maladaptive, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol 32 No 12
  7. Seeman, MV, 1995 Gender and Psychopathology, American Psychiatric Publishers Inc, ISBN 0880485647
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