Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 333–350 | Cite as

The Role of Personal Standards in Clinically Significant Perfectionism. A Person-Oriented Approach to the Study of Patterns of Perfectionism

  • Lars-Gunnar LundhEmail author
  • Fredrik Saboonchi
  • Margit Wångby
Original Article


Clinically significant perfectionism is defined as patterns of perfectionism which are over-represented in clinical samples and under-represented in non-clinical samples. The present study contrasted two hypotheses about what characterizes clinically significant perfectionism: the two-factor theory and perfectionism/acceptance theory. First, a person-oriented approach by means of cluster analysis was used to identify typical patterns of perfectionism. These clusters were then cross-tabulated with two clinical samples (patients with social phobia and patients with panic disorder) and a non-clinical sample. The results showed that patterns of clinically significant perfectionism combined high Concern over Mistakes (CM) and Doubts about Action (DA) with high Personal Standards (PS) (and to a lesser extent also high Organization)––which is consistent with perfectionism/acceptance theory, but at odds with the two-factor theory. The results illustrate the value of a person-oriented methodological approach as a complement to the traditional variable-oriented approach.


Perfectionism Social phobia Panic disorder Depression Person-oriented approach 



We would like to thank Professor Lars R. Bergman for highly valuable comments on the cluster analytic parts of the study.


  1. Adkins, K. K., & Parker, W. (1996). Perfectionism and suicidal preoccupation. Journal of Personality, 64, 529–543.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alden, L. E., Ryder, A. G., & Mellings, T. M. B. (2002). In: G. L. Flett & P. L. Hewitt (Eds.), Perfectionism. Theory, research, and treatment (pp. 373–391). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (1987). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  4. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  5. Antony, M. M., Purdon, C. L., Huta, V., & Swindon, R. P. (1998). Dimensions of perfectionism across the anxiety disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36, 1143–1154.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bastiani, A. M., Rao, R., Weltzin, T., & Kaye, W. H. (1995). Perfectionism in anorexia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 17, 147–152.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Garbin, M. G. (1988). Psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory: Twenty-five year of evaluation. Clinical Psychology Review, 8, 77–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beck, A. T., Ward, C. H., Mendelson, M., Mock, J., & Erbaugh, J. (1961). An inventory for measuring depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 4, 561–571.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bergman, L. R. (1988). You can’t classify all of the people all of the time. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 23, 425–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bergman, L. R. (1998). A pattern-oriented approach to studying individual development: Snapshots and processes. In R. B. Cairns, L. R. Bergman, & J. Kagan (Eds.), Methods and models for studying the individual (pp. 82–31). Thousand Oaks.Google Scholar
  11. Bergman, L. R., & El-Khouri, B. M. (1987). EXACON: A fortran 77 program for the exact analysis of single cells in a contingency table. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 47, 155–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bergman, L. R. & El-Khouri, B. M. (2002). SLEIPNER. A statistical package for pattern-oriented analyses. Version 2.1. Stockholm: Stockholm University, Department of Psychology. Scholar
  13. Bergman, L. R., & Magnusson, D. (1997). A person-oriented approach in research on developmental psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 291–319.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bergman, L. R., Magnusson, D., & El-Khouri, B. M. (2003). Studying individual development in an interindividual context. A person-oriented approach. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  15. Bieling, P. J., Israeli, A. L., & Antony, M. M. (2004). Is perfectionism good, bad, or both? Examining models of the perfectionism construct. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 1373–1385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brown, T. A., DiNardo, P. A., & Barlow, D. H. (1994). Anxiety disorders interview schedule for DSM-IV. Albany, N.Y.: Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders.Google Scholar
  17. Cox, B. J., Enns, M. W., & Clara, I. (2002). The multidimensional structure of perfectionism in clinically distressed and college student samples. Psychological Assessment, 14, 365–373.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Davis, C. (1997). Normal and neurotic perfectionism in eating disorders: An interactive model. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 22, 421–426.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. DiNardo, P. A., & Barlow, D. H. (1988). Anxiety disorders interview schedule-revised. Albany, N.Y.: Center for Stress and Anxiety Disorders.Google Scholar
  20. Ellis, A. (2002). The role of irrational beliefs in perfectionism. In: G. L. Flett & P. L. Hewitt (Eds.), Perfectionism. Theory, research, and treatment (pp. 217–229). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  21. Enns, M. W., Cox, B. J., Sareen, J., & Freeman, P. (2001). Adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism in medical students: A longitudinal investigation. Medical Education, 35, 1034–1042.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Flett, G. L., Greene, A., & Hewitt, P. L. (2004). Dimensions of perfectionism and anxiety sensitivity. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22, 39–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Flett, G. L., & Hewitt, P. L. (2002). Perfectionism and maladjustment: An overview of theoretical, definitional, and treatment issues. In G. L. Flett, & P. L. Hewitt (Eds.), Perfectionism. Theory, research, and treatment (pp. 5–32). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  24. Frost, R. O., Heimberg, R. G., Holt, C. S., Mattia, J. I., & Neubauer, L. A. (1993). A comparison of two measures of perfectionism. Personality and Individual Differences, 14, 119–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Frost, R. O., Marten, P., Lahart, C., & Rosenblate, R. (1990). The dimensions of perfectionism. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 14, 449–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Haase, A. M., & Prapavessis, H. (2004). Assessing the factor structure and composition of the positive and negative perfectionism scale in sport. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 1725–1740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Halmi, K. A., Sunday, S. P., Stober, M., Kaplan, A., Woodside, D. B., Fichler, M., et al. (2000). Perfectionism in anorexia nervosa: Variations by clinical subtype, obsessionality, and pathological eating behavior. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 1799–1805.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hamachek, D. E. (1978). Psychodynamics of normal and neurotic perfectionism. Psychology, 15, 27–33.Google Scholar
  29. Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (1991). Perfectionism in the self and social contexts: Conceptualization, assessment, and association with psychopathology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 456–470.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Juster, H. R., Frost, R. O., Heimberg, R. G., Holt, C. S., Mattia, J. I., & Faccenda, K. (1996). Social phobia and perfectionism. Personality and Individual Differences, 21, 403–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kawamura, K. Y., Hunt, S. L., Frost, R. O., & DiBartolo, P. M. (2001). Perfectionism, anxiety, and depression: Are the relationships independent? Cognitive Therapy and Research, 25, 291–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lundh, L. G. (2004). Perfectionism and acceptance. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22, 251–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lundh, L. G., & Öst, L. G. (2001). Attentional bias, self-consciousness, and perfectionism in social phobia before and after cognitive-behaviour therapy. Scandinavian Journal of Behaviour Therapy, 30, 4–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lynd-Stevenson, R. M., & Hearne, C. M. (1999). Perfectionism and depressive affect: The pros and cons of being a perfectionist. Personality and Individual Differences, 26, 549–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McNally, R. J. (2002). Anxiety sensitivity and panic disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 52, 938–946.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Öst, L. G., Thulin, U., & Ramnerö, J. (2004). Cognitive behavior therapy vs exposure in vivo in the treatment of panic disorder with agrophobia. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42, 1105–1127.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Parker, W. D. (1997). An empirical typology of perfectionism in academically talented children. American Educational Research Journal, 34, 545–562.Google Scholar
  38. Rice, K. G., Ashby, J. S., & Slaney, R. B. (1998). Self-esteem as a mediator between perfectionism and depression: A structural equations analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45, 304–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rice, K. G., & Mirzadeh, S. A. (2000). Perfectionism, attachment, and adjustment. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47, 238–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Saboonchi, F., & Lundh, L. G. (1997). Perfectionism, self-consciousness, and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, 22, 921–928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Saboonchi, F., Lundh, L. G., & Öst, L. G. (1999). Perfectionism and self-consciousness in social phobia and panic disorder with agoraphobia. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37, 799–808.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shafran, R., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2002). Clinical perfectionism: A cognitive-behavioural analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 773–791.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Slade, P. D., & Owens, B. G. (1998). A dual process model of perfectionism based on reinforcement theory. Behavior Modification, 22, 372–390.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Slaney, R. B., Rice, K. G., Mobly, M., Trippi, J., & Ashby, J. S. (2001). The revised almost perfect scale. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 34, 130–145.Google Scholar
  45. Srinivasagam, N. M., Kaye, W. H., Plotnicov, K. H., Greeno, C., Weltzin, T. E., & Rao, R. (1995). Persistent perfectionism, symmetry, and exactness after long-term recovery from anorexia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 152, 1630–1634.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Stumpf, H., & Parker, W. D. (2000). A hierarchical structural analysis of perfectionism and its relation to other personality characteristics. Personality and Individual Differences, 28, 837–852.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Terry-Short, L. A., Owens, R. G., Slade, P. D., & Dewey, M. E. (1995). Positive and negative perfectionism. Personality and Individual Differences, 18, 663–668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wishart, D. (1987). CLUSTAN. User manual. Cluster analysis software. Computing Laboratory, University of St. Andrews.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lars-Gunnar Lundh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fredrik Saboonchi
    • 2
  • Margit Wångby
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.H. M. Queen Sophia University College of NursingStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations