Anxiety and Perfectionism: Relationships, Mechanisms, and Conditions

  • Alexandra BurgessEmail author
  • Patricia Marten DiBartolo


Perfectionism, as defined by the setting of high standards accompanied by critical self-evaluation, is often associated with increased psychological distress. A body of literature suggests that perfectionism interacts with other factors to produce various types of anxious symptomology, including, but not limited to, trait and state anxiety, social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. The relationship between perfectionism and anxiety is nuanced by the bidimensional nature of perfectionism. While the setting of rigorous standards may be adaptive or maladaptive depending on individual characteristics and context, the evaluative concerns dimension of perfectionism is consistently related to negative mental health outcomes. Research suggests a wide variety of mechanisms through, and conditions under, which the dimensions of perfectionism give rise to anxiety. The current chapter explores these potential mediators and moderators for the perfectionism–anxiety link by reviewing theoretical and empirical literature. These mediating and moderating characteristics are broadly categorized as relating to (1) stress and emotion regulation, (2) social factors, and (3) cognitions. The identified intra- and interpersonal factors represent potential prevention and treatment targets for alleviating perfectionism and disrupting the pathway between perfectionism and anxiety.


Anxiety Evaluative concerns Social anxiety Obsessive-compulsive disorder Emotion regulation Stress Cognitive mechanisms 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySmith CollegeNorthamptonUSA

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