The term perfectionism and alcoholism don’t usually go in the same sentence. It is hard to imagine a person so obsessed with presenting their best personal self, having the urge to get blackout drunk. However, a new study proposes the idea that certain aspects of perfectionism can influence bad drinking behaviors among men and women.
The Journal of Research Personality released a study that involved 263 young adults who filled out daily questioners for 21 days straight. The questions included things concerning perfectionism, emotional states, reasons for drinking and any alcohol-induced problems including fighting, risky behavior, neglecting responsibilities, and damage to personal and loving relationships.
Sean P. Mackinnon, the study author and an instructor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Dalhousie University, released a statement to the PsyPost saying, “Broadly speaking, perfectionism is a risk factor for a lot of psychopathologies, specifically anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.” The primary goal of the study was to key in on the relationships among perfectionism, drinking, and emotional states.
Other supporting research also showed links between perfectionism and drinking; experts explain however the exact connection wasn’t clear. For example, perfectionist, tend to be light drinkers, but when they did consume alcohol, they experienced more problem-like fighting or blacking out. The study Mackinnon conducted hopes to understand why.
One exciting discovery showed one trait of perfectionism that correlated with alcohol problems. Many might think of perfectionism as wanting always to be seen as the best. There’s an alternative motivation: wanting never to be seen as imperfect. It’s the difference between “I want to be seen as perfect” and “I’m afraid of being found out as imperfect.”
To disprove this motive, experts asked how much participants agreed with questions such as, “I was concerned about making errors in public” and “I thought it would be awful if I made a fool of myself in front of others.” Those results indirectly correlate with problematic drinking because they are associated with a negative mood, drinking to cope and drinking to fit in, all lead to alcohol problems.
To conclude his study Mackinnon paints a detailed picture: Someone that is fixated on concealing their faults (real or not) feels negative emotions, putting them at higher risk of drinking to fit in or cope with life.
However, the study doesn’t explain why perfectionist tends to drink less, but still, have more problems stemming from alcohol. Mackinnon is already proposing another research study, digging into the possibility of Antidepressants being a significant factor. He believes that perfectionist may take them at a higher rate than the average person, which lowers their alcohol tolerance.
However, until then the study hopes to portray more of a sympathetic view of a perfectionist. He claims, despite their trait, they are regular people. Mental Health experts define Perfectionism in psychology as a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.