Perfectionism may be a risk factor for severe alcohol use disorder – Neuroscience News

Summary: The study found a link between the personality trait of perfectionism and severe alcohol use disorder.

author: Association for Research on Alcoholism

Idealistic traits–high self-criticism, unrealistic standards that lead to isolation–are associated with severe alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to the first study directly comparing patients with AUD to a healthy control group.

Perfectionists strive for unrealistic performance standards and are prone to self-criticism. These goals generate a sense of failure, and if they cannot achieve the standards that they think others expect of them, they are cut off from society.

Perfectionism is known to increase susceptibility to stress and depression, but its role in severe AUD has not been fully investigated.

Some evidence suggests that young perfectionists drink less frequently than their peers. Some other studies have shown that perfectionism coincides with higher impulsivity and lower impulse control, the factors that go into this disorder, and that perfectionists may abuse themselves with alcohol in an attempt to overcome social anxiety or feelings of inadequacy.

to study in Alcohol addiction: clinical and experimental researchIn Belgium, researchers explored the links between idealized traits and severe AUD.

The investigators worked with 65 adults with severe AUD who underwent inpatient detoxification and 65 age- and sex-matched healthy adults. Participants filled out questionnaires to assess three dimensions of perfectionism.

Self-directed perfection involves exaggerated performance standards defined for oneself (eg, “One of my goals is to be perfect in everything I do”). Socially described perfection is generated by the perceived expectations of others (eg, “People expect me no less than perfection”).

Others-oriented perfectionism involves setting high standards for others (eg, “I have high expectations for people who are important to me”).

The researchers also assessed participants’ depressive symptoms, status anxiety (transient anxiety that occurs in a specific situation), and trait anxiety (worry that generalizes to a person’s extensive experience). The researchers used statistical analysis to look for links between these factors.

Patients with severe AUD have reported symptoms of depression and anxiety traits. They also demonstrated higher socially oriented, self-directed perfectionism than controls, although the two groups were similar in other-oriented perfectionism.

Severe AUD disorder was associated with unrealistic personal standards and increased sensitivity to the expectations of others, even after accounting for the role of depression and anxiety symptoms, but not by prompting others.

Patients with severe AUD have reported symptoms of depression and anxiety traits. The image is in the public domain

This is in line with what is known about self- and personality-related factors in severe AUD, such as low self-esteem, a tendency to blame oneself, and the difference between people’s ideal and actual self.

Perfectionists may notice a large gap between their high standards and the consequences associated with alcohol, fearing academic or professional failure.

The study results also indicate that self-oriented perfectionism in acute attention deficit disorder is higher among men and people with more education. It also supports previous evidence that perfectionism is associated with lower daily alcohol consumption in moderate drinkers.

The researchers concluded that, given the potential role of perfection in the development and maintenance of severe AUD, it may be a valuable therapeutic target.

They recommend additional investigation into the various dimensions of perfectionism in AUD, including whether perfectionism reduces treatment efficacy, and the causal links between perfectionism, impulsivity, and self-blame.

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About this research news alcohol use disorder

author: press office
source: Association for Research on Alcoholism
Contact: Press Office – Alcoholism Research Association
picture: The image is in the public domain

original search: Access closed.
“More self-oriented and socially described perfectionism in severe alcohol use disorder” by Pierre Maurage et al. Alcohol addiction: clinical and experimental research


Increased self-directed and socially described perfectionism in severe alcohol use disorder


Idealistic individuals present exaggerated performance standards, which generates a constant search for perfection and a strong tendency to self-criticism. Dominant models distinguish three dimensions of perfectionism: self-directed, socially described, and other oriented. Perfectionism is a vulnerability factor for mental disorders, but its role in severe alcohol use disorder (SAUD) remains undiscovered.


Sixty-five recently detoxed patients with SAUD and 65 matched controls completed the Questionnaire of Perfection (Hewitt Multidimensional Scale of Perfection), along with psychopathological scales.


SAUD was associated with greater self-directed and socially defined perfectionism, with no group differences in otherness-oriented perfectionism. This differential pattern persisted when controlling for depression and anxiety levels, and there was no association with alcohol consumption.


This specific idealistic profile is consistent with those previous studies showing lower self-assessment (eg, higher self-blame and lower self-esteem) and poorer social cognition (eg, unrealistic social norms and greater social isolation) in SAUD. Because of its potential role in the development and maintenance of SAUD, optimization may constitute a valuable therapeutic target in patients with this disorder.

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