Findings of the present study show that both aspects of perfectionism -positive and negative- are associated with depression and anxiety scores in guidance and high school students. A positive association was found between negative perfectionism with depression and anxiety and a negative association was found between positive perfectionism with depression and anxiety. This means that in both sexes negative perfectionism is a risk factor for both depression and anxiety, while positive perfectionism is a protective factor.
In recent decade, some studies have demonstrated the association between perfectionism with anxiety and depression as Grzegorek et al and Chang et al compared adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism and demonstrated the maladaptive perfectionists had higher scores of depression and anxiety.9,19
Also, in a non-clinical student sample, Saboonchi et al have reported positive associations between expressions of anxiety and perfectionism.20
The results this study are in agreement with the mentioned studies, as negative perfectionism has positive associations with anxiety and depression and positive perfectionism has been showed as a protective factor in both sex-es. Gilman et al in 2005 and Kawamura et al in 2001 also found no significant difference between two sexes.21,22
The mechanisms of the relationship between perfectionism and these outcomes (depression and anxiety) are not well understood. After facing with failure, perfectionists experience more intense distresses than non perfectionists because of their needs to do tasks with perfect results and equation of their performance with their adequacy.23,24
The interaction of anxiety and depression with positive perfectionism is shown in . The main characteristic of these individuals is that they′re less exposed to depression, because the level of pursuit of excellence and success achievement are higher in them. However, because of higher level of motivation and striving, positive perfectionists experience higher level of anxiety. According to Saboonchi et al, continuing successes of positive perfectionists without avoidance of failure is associated with positive emotional feeling like pleasure, satisfaction and euphoria.20
shows the interaction of anxiety and depression with negative perfectionism. Subjects with higher scores of negative perfectionism experience more anxiety; this might be caused because of their excessive apprehension about others′ opinions. Indeed, unrealistically high standards and preoccupation with the failure increase their anxiety whereas owning high aims and standards (even unrealistic ones) causes lower level of hopelessness.
Being worry about rejection and lack of respect from others, cause daily stress for perfectionists, and these feelings lead to defensive interpersonal style which elicits actual negative reactions from other people. Multilevel modeling have shown that negative perfectionists have more emotional reactions toward stressors which cause to sense of failure, loss of control and criticism.25
Following that, they loss their motivation, encounter numbness or procrastination, and stop their striving.
This study has some limitations. The results of this study are relational and not causal, therefore, it can not be concluded from this study whether anxiety or depression are causes or results of perfectionism. The sample was restricted to students in Isfahan and this limits the results to be generalized, too. Also, compared with perfectionism, other personality dimensions might play important roles in predicting anxiety and depression. In addition, studying the parental pressure -from the students’ point of view- and parents’ expectations may help us to learn more about perfectionism and its related psychopathology.