Before I properly begin this post, let’s just remember a few things: I am not a psychologist. I am not a professional expert on OCD. I rely mostly on my own experiences to write these posts. Therefore, it’s probably best to take my comments as opinion rather than fact.

So… that being said:

Is there a connection between perfectionism and OCD?

I would say yes, but don’t jump to the conclusion that being a perfectionist means that you have obsessive compulsive disorder. 

The things we think

I recently started reading The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought. I recommend this book to you if you want a good modern history and theoretical explanation of OCD (that’s about as far as I’ve gotten into it for now, ha!). But I bring it up because the author, David Adam, makes some good points about how we think and whether or not thoughts are acceptable to us.

That’s one of the things about OCD. We all think things, but whether or not you have OCD really depends on what you do with those thoughts. Do you think they are good or bad? Do you think they make you good or bad? Do you like them? Do you think they are normal or abnormal? Are you happy with or horrified by what your brain is thinking? Do you act on these thoughts or not?

Is perfectionism good or bad?

In many ways, having perfectionist traits is a good thing. I think it’s good to want to do your best, but I kind of cringe at quotations saying all you have to be is your best because, in my brain, my “best” would be perfect. And “perfection” isn’t necessarily a good goal since it is so elusive. So maybe having perfectionist traits isn’t a good thing after all?

I guess what I mean is that it seems like we should tryto improve ourselves. We should try to do well at our life: whether that be school, work, taking care of our homes, church callings, or parenting. I feel like it’s a good thing to aim high and not be content with low standards.

OCD + perfectionism?

But let’s check this out with OCD in mind: does this “aiming high” take over your thoughts and actions? Are you doing certain things (compulsions) over and over again to try and be perfect? Are you mad at yourself because you can’t reach that unattainable goal? Do you know it’s unattainable and try for it over and over again anyway, continuing to beat yourself up over not getting there, time and time again? Is perfectionism taking over your life and stopping you from doing the things you need or are supposed to do? If yes, then this is where I think you might do well to research OCD and get some help.

Perfectionism ≠ OCD

If you just like straight lines, nice handwriting, neat paragraph edges, exact change, basic order and organization or things like that, I would say stick with saying you are a perfectionist and not necessarily OCD. (Again, if you act compulsively to achieve those things, OCD may be more likely.)

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to be a perfectionist to have OCD. A common misconception is that people who have OCD have perfect, orderly houses where nothing is out of place and all is clean and organized. This is typically not true. Sometimes it can be the opposite (hoarding OCD comes to mind). OCD is not always equal to cleanliness and perfectionism.

How do you envision the connection between OCD and perfectionism? Anything you would change or add?


2 thoughts on “Perfectionism”

  1. Is perfection in the eye of the beholder? Is there ever a shortage of things to think about? Why do we have expectations? And why are they what they are? Can we ever be satisfied by just being? Can we ever completely just ignore all outside bombardment? I don’t know, but it feels good thinking about it.

  2. Michael J. Fox said this about Perfection: I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business. (from his book “the Most Important Thing I know”)

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