Being perfect not so good for health

Update:06 May 2007

GENEVA, May 4 -- Perfectionists show greater sensibility to psycho-social stresses than their more relaxed peers, a responsiveness that may have health consequences, Swiss Radio International (SRI) reported on Friday.

Perfectionists have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and are also more likely to feel fatigued, irritable and demoralized, according to a Swiss study.

Fifty middle-aged men were tested for the study by Petra Wirtz of Zurich University and her colleagues, a number sufficient to make the results statistically relevant.

 The group was chosen by selecting candidates who measured the highest levels of perfectionism after answering a questionnaire.

 "There were 35 questions such as whether the person who replied felt he was well organized at work, got angry with errors or considered it a failure to complete some goals," Wirtz told SRI.

 A perfectionist is usually characterized as someone who sets excessively high standards for performance while by being extremely self-critical.

 The researchers found the greater a person's perfectionist tendencies, the higher his cortisol secretion. "Our results suggest there is a correlation between the two," added Wirtz.

They also identified another possible link between perfectionism and vital exhaustion, defined as a sense of feeling fatigued, irritable and demoralized. Wirtz said more research would be needed to confirm the findings.

 Perfectionists' high standards are self-imposed according to psychologists. By finding a way to bring these standards closer to reality, Wirtz reckons perfectionists may be able to strengthen their confidence and possibly become less reactive to social stressors. 


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