Perfectionism as a transdiagnostic process: a clinical review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Mar;31(2):203-12. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.04.009. Epub 2010 May 5.


Perfectionism is a risk and maintaining factor for eating disorders, anxiety disorders and depression. The objective of this paper is to review the four bodies of evidence supporting the notion that perfectionism is a transdiagnostic process. First, a review of the literature was conducted that demonstrates the elevation of perfectionism across numerous anxiety disorders, depression, and eating disorders compared to healthy controls. Data is presented that shows perfectionism increases vulnerability for eating disorders, and that it maintains obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety and depression as it predicts treatment outcome in these disorders. Second, evidence is examined showing that elevated perfectionism is associated with co-occurrence of psychopathology. Third, the different conceptualisations of perfectionism are reviewed, including a cognitive-behavioural conceptualisation of clinical perfectionism that can be utilised to understand this transdiagnostic process. Fourth, evidence that treatment of perfectionism results in reductions in anxiety, depression and eating pathology is reviewed. Finally, the importance of clinicians considering the routine assessment and treatment of perfectionism is outlined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depression / therapy
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / therapy
  • Humans
  • Personality*