Perfectionism Linked to Drug Addiction


The person with never a strand of hair out of place, whose car is forever immaculate and whose home looks like a model showcase may seem like the furthest thing from a candidate for addiction, but a perfectionistic drive can actually be at the root of addiction.

Addiction has more to do with how a person thinks than anything else, and the "it must be perfect or it’s a total failure" mindset can actually lead a person to seek solace in substance abuse. The all-or-nothing, black-or-white thought pattern can easily lead a person into depression or anxiety when they keep bumping against the less than perfect realities of life.

The person who sets unrealistically lofty goals for themselves can easily feel like a complete failure when they fail to wonderfully over-achieve. This person may assume that others view them as worthless because when they are less than perfect, that is how they see themselves. Drugs or alcohol can seem like a way to escape from overwhelming self-imposed feelings of inadequacy. On the other hand, even when it seems they are meeting every person’s goal, the perfectionist usually manages to see some fault or shortcoming somewhere. The paradox of perfectionism is the thing sought after but forever eludes the seeker.

This actually fuels addiction since the person who realizes they will not be able to perfectly adhere to any recovery program decides not to even try. Or, their exceptional self-expectations may lead them to demand that they overcome their problem on their own with no outside help. Either way, the perfectionistic attitude is what keeps the person trapped in their addiction.

The perfectionistic person rarely only sets high standards for him/herself. This person frequently has high expectations for others around them as well. Of course, this leads to confrontations and not surprisingly, people around the perfectionist quickly scatter in order to avoid constant criticism. Unfortunately, this leaves the perfectionist isolated and without anyone to challenge their unrealistic and unhealthy way of thinking.

The perfectionist often is able to achieve certain levels of success, but their successes feel hollow even to them. The all-or-nothing personality needs help learning to appreciate minute accomplishments, because life is more about day by day, step by step moments on a journey than anything else. The perfectionist misses these small achievements because they are overlooked in favor of a big picture. But, if the person can learn how to take note of the small victories, they will actually begin to develop a healthier self-esteem. After all, people have value apart from what they accomplish.

Celebrating things like courage and persistence can completely re-vamp the way the perfectionist is used to thinking. In the same way, when they realize that mistakes and failures can be opportunities for learning and growth, radical changes in thinking take place. Life is full of imperfections – accepting them and using them for good is much more realistic and is the only way to escape the negative thinking of perfectionism.