Perfectionism Affects Blood Pressure in Response to Repeated Exposure to Stress

Stress Health. 2016 Apr;32(2):157-66. doi: 10.1002/smi.2591. Epub 2014 Jun 26.


This pilot study examined the effects of perfectionism on blood pressure (BP) in response to repeated exposure to mental arithmetic stressors. College students (N = 30) in a laboratory setting were administered a series of challenging mathematical tasks. BP was measured at baseline and after each task. Multilevel modelling analyses revealed that BP tended to decline over the course of the mathematical tasks. However, higher levels of performance standards predicted relatively stable levels of systolic BP, whereas moderate and lower levels of standards predicted declines in systolic BP. Higher levels of self-critical perfectionism predicted generally sustained levels of diastolic BP, with moderate and low self-criticism predicting declines in diastolic BP during the repeated stressors. These preliminary results suggest that students with higher levels of perfectionism may be at risk for physiological problems associated with stress reactivity, perhaps especially so in situations in which they experience persistent stress. Although results were qualified by a relatively small sample size, effects were statistically significant and supported the importance of examining the short-term and long-term implications of the effects of perfectionism on cardiovascular function and the different implications of elevations in systolic and diastolic BP.

Keywords: blood pressure; cardiovascular disease; perfectionism; stress reactivity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perfectionism*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult