Perfectionism Therapy in London & Online
Do you struggle with self-criticism, fear of failure, or difficulty in “calling it a day”? These could be signs of perfectionism, a persistent pursuit of flawlessness that affects not only you, but also those around you.
Perfectionism can take the form of demanding absolute perfection from yourself and others, leading to negative impacts on relationships. In therapy, we’ll delve into how your perfectionistic tendencies affect your relationships and work towards finding a healthier balance
Perfectionism may seem attractive, but it can ultimately hinder your work efficiency and productivity by draining your energy, enthusiasm, and optimism, which are crucial for success in any field.
Discover how therapy for perfectionism can help you find balance and achieve your goals. Our therapists focus on your beliefs and unhelpful demands, leading to more realistic and achievable goals, increased happiness, and improved work efficiency and productivity.
Book a free 15-minute consultation with us to see if our therapy for perfectionism can help you overcome your struggles and find success. Available both in-person at our psychology practice in London and online for your convenience.
What is Perfectionism?
Perfectionism is a term used to describe a person’s persistent patterns of behaviour, emotions, and thoughts. It’s a psychological trait, like being extraverted, neurotic, or open to new experiences, that affects how we behave and feel.
But what exactly is perfectionism? Simply put, it’s a drive to achieve flawlessness and strive for excellence in all areas of life, sometimes to an extreme and harmful degree. It’s important to understand that while striving for excellence is admirable, perfectionism can take it to a whole new level, causing anxiety, stress, and even depression.
What are the Main Signs of Perfectionism?
There are three main forms of this psychological trait :
This is the most well-known form and is essentially an extreme form of conscientiousness.
You believe that what you do must always be perfect and it’s better not to do anything at all than not to do it perfectly. Other signs include:
- Extreme self-criticism (e.g., feeling overwhelmed by one small mistake and beating yourself up for it)
- You don’t apply the same perfectionistic standards to other people (e.g., others can make mistakes while you cannot)
- Disregarding other important activities (e.g., leisure) in pursuit of perfectionistic standards (e.g. working long hours in order to get something done “the way it should be done”, at the expense of cultivating important relationships)
- Worry and anxiety about incomplete tasks (for example, believing that something terrible will happen if you don’t complete the task to perfection)
- Procrastination out of fear of “not being enough”
- Procrastinating tasks due to fear of not meeting perfectionistic standards. (e.g., you struggle to begin work because you’re afraid of not being good enough and not being able to achieve perfection)
- Impostor syndrome that makes you like you’re a fraud and lack talent.
- No time for important social activities
A socially-prescribed perfectionist believes that others expect him to be impeccable.
This can be expressed in the realm of productivity, but also in less formal settings such as social gatherings. Other signs include:
- Being very self-conscious in social situations (e.g., constantly being aware of your appearance and how others view you in social situations).
- Feeling overly sensitive to criticism and taking it personally, even when it is not intended as an offense.
- Always trying to do what others expect of you
- Lacking assertiveness (e.g., you find it difficult to say “no” even when you have too much on your plate already).
- Overthinking and overinterpreting others’ behavior
- Anxiety and worry related to others’ perceptions of you
- Avoidance of social situations
- Overthinking others’ behaviour with negative interpretations (e.g. “Why is he looking at me that way?” or “This cashier obviously hates me. What did I do?”)
- Anxiety over others’ opinions (e.g., you find it difficult to fall asleep due to thoughts of past social “mistakes”).
- Avoidance of social situations due to fear of criticism or anxious thoughts about others’ perceptions of you.
Socially-prescribed perfectionism can be seen as an extreme form of agreeableness, a personality trait characterised by a strong desire to get along with others and a sensitivity to their thoughts and actions.
This form of perfectionism is about being too demanding towards others. Sings include:
- Being highly critical of others (e.g., harshly criticising a partner for small mistakes like spilling a cup of tea).
- Expecting others to be perfect while not holding oneself to the same standards (double standards).
- Being arrogant, condescending, and demeaning towards others when they fail to meet unrealistic expectations.
- Reduced quality of relationships (others may find it uncomfortable to be around you).
- Being suspicious of others’ motives and intentions towards you.
- A Belief that if you’re not demanding and arrogant, others will take advantage of you.
- Irritability when dealing with people who don’t meet your expectations (e.g., avoiding situations where you may encounter someone you dislike)
How is Perfectionism Maintained?
Let’s say you have a passion for woodworking and you’ve decided to build a small house for your furry friend. You’ve come up with a detailed plan that outlines every step of the construction process. As you begin working on the project, you encounter some unexpected challenges. Despite these challenges, you’re determined to stick to your plan and create the perfect house for your dog. However, this quest for perfection becomes overwhelming, causing you to feel frustrated, anxious, or angry. At this point, you might consider abandoning the project altogether or continuing to work on it endlessly. In either case, this cycle of perfectionism only reinforces the belief that everything you do must be perfect or not worth doing at all. Over time, this can drain your time and energy, turning what was once a joyful hobby into a source of stress. In this way perfectionism maintains itself with a vicious cycle.
Imagine you believe that others have extremely high expectations for your behaviour and performance in social situations. You feel like you’re being over-scrutinised in gatherings and want to present yourself perfectly to maintain good relationships with others. This mindset causes you to become overly self-conscious, making it harder for you to socialize in a relaxed and natural way. As a result, you might feel anxious and choose to leave social situations to find comfort. However, this only perpetuates your perfectionistic beliefs about how you should appear in front of others, making it even more challenging to face future social situations.
This form of perfectionism is perpetuated due to one’s tendency to be hypercritical of others’ mistakes. Let’s say your partner constantly parks the car in a slightly awkward manner, this may cause you to doubt their ability and intelligence, resulting in heated and angry outbursts. This in turn, may cause your partner to go into a defensive mode and repeat the same behaviour, either due to the pressure they feel or just to annoy you. The vicious cycle of other-oriented perfectionism is linked to a self-fulfilling prophecy; when you expect others to behave in a certain way, you can inadvertently cause the reactions you are expecting.
If this sounds familiar, you should get help as soon as possible. Chronic insomnia is particularly difficult to treat because mental health difficulties typically cause it. If you’re affected by anxiety, feeling alert might prevent you from getting sleep, increasing the stress even more. In the end, you might become trapped in a so-called vicious cycle of insomnia. When you can’t fall asleep, you might worry about waking up tired, which produces anxiety that your mind might begin to associate with sleep.
What Causes Perfectionism?
Have you ever wondered what’s behind the drive for perfection? Well, there are many factors that can contribute to perfectionism. But the thing is, different types of perfectionism can have different causes. For example, some forms of perfectionism can be linked to personality traits such as conscientiousness and self-orientation, while others can be linked to traits such as agreeableness and social pressure. Let’s dive a little deeper into these causes and see what might foster perfectionism.
Some people are just more prone to perfectionism due to their genetics, passed down from their parents. But it’s not just the genes alone. The environment also plays a role in shaping whether this genetic predisposition manifests. For example, if you have a genetic tendency towards self-oriented perfectionism but were raised by parents with reasonable expectations and who didn’t overly criticise you as a child, it’s less likely that you’ll become overly perfectionistic.
This group of factors involves everything from your upbringing, early life surroundings, friends and significant life events. Even if you don’t have a genetic predisposition towards perfectionism, a strict parenting style and excessive criticism can still lead to an increase in your perfectionist tendencies. Some important non-genetic factors include:
- Parenting style: Strict parents who constantly criticize their child can lead to an increase in perfectionist tendencies, In the case of lenient or absent parents, a lack of structure and guidance can lead to the individual setting impossibly high standards for themselves as they attempt to compensate for the lack of external expectations.
- Culture: In Eastern Asian countries with strict social codes, the pressure to conform can lead to socially-prescribed perfectionism.
- Social circle: Being bullied in school can contribute to perfectionist tendencies as a child tries to avoid criticism.
- Later life experiences: Having an overly critical boss or colleagues can cause perfectionist tendencies to develop in adulthood.
When should I get Therapy for Perfectionism?
You should ask for help as soon as you notice some of the following signs:
If you experience any of the following signs, it may be time to consider seeking therapy for perfectionism:
- Struggling to complete tasks due to constant self-criticism and the need to do better.
For example, spending an excessive amount of time checking and rechecking a report or essay, leading to working after-hours and sacrificing personal time.
- Excessive criticism of others, even for small mistakes, that affects your personal and professional relationships.
For instance, constantly mentioning a minor mistake your friend made, which makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Being overly concerned about others’ opinions and changing your behaviour to please them.
For example, choosing a restaurant based on others’ preferences and disregarding your own wants.
These three signs broadly correspond to the three types of perfectionism mentioned. Their consequences are widely different though.
For instance, self-oriented perfectionism can lead to burnout, as you tend to focus too much on work and neglect other important areas of life like relationships and leisure time.
If you feel anxious about social situations and overly worried about others’ perceptions of you, it could be a sign of socially-prescribed perfectionism, which is often linked to Social Anxiety or avoidant personality disorder.
On the other hand, if others are avoiding you because of your tendency to be overly critical or expect too much from them, you may be experiencing other-oriented perfectionism.
In general, if perfectionism is causing you to feel anxious, irritable, frustrated, and angry, and it’s impacting your work, relationships, and leisure time, it’s a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional.
Does Perfectionism Therapy Work?
Yes! Perfectionism can be treated in numerous ways and some of them, like CBT or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), have been tested in numerous scientific studies and their efficiency is unambiguously proven .
What’s the Best Therapy Approach for Perfectionism?
The two most popular therapy approaches to work with perfectionism are:
- Psychodynamic approaches. Which mainly focus on providing counselling to people who have other-oriented perfectionism tied to deeper issues with narcissism.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approaches. Which have seen a lot of clinical trials in the contexts of self-oriented and socially-prescribed perfectionism. These are just the most popular approaches.
Aside from these two, perfectionism can be treated with a variety of other therapies, including person-centred therapy and integrative therapy.
CBT Therapy for Perfectionism
CBT for perfectionism has the most empirical evidence . It was shown that after 10 CBT sessions, 75% of participants who struggled with perfectionism started to feel better. CBT for perfectionism works in the following way:
- Identifying negative automatic thoughts (e.g. “I must do this task perfectly.”)
- Identifying irrational maladaptive beliefs (e.g. “I must be perfect. If I am not perfect, I am worth nothing.” or “I must always do everything perfectly. If I don’t do it perfectly each time, it’s better not to do it at all.”)
- Building more adaptive and rational beliefs and replacing the old ones (e.g. “It would be great to do everything perfectly, but this is not always possible, and that’s the way the world works.” or “Just because something I do isn’t 100% perfect, doesn’t necessarily mean I am a bad person.” or yet, “No one is perfect and no one can be perfect. It’s okay not to be a perfect person.”)
What are the Benefits of Therapy for Perfectionism?
Working with one of our therapists on your perfectionism, can bring several benefits, including:
- Less self-criticism
- Increased productivity and work efficiency
- Less anxiety about work and unfinished tasks
- More confidence in social situations, less sensitivity towards what others think about you (especially if you’re suffering from socially-prescribed perfectionism)
- Reduced social anxiety
- Becoming less critical towards others (in case you have issues with other-oriented perfectionism)
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
- Greater enjoyment from your relationships
- Higher quality of life
How Long Does Perfectionism Treatment Last?
About 10 sessions of CBT for perfectionism can significantly improve signs and symptoms of perfectionism. A third-wave CBT psychotherapeutic approach, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), was also shown to effect a significant improvement after 10 weekly sessions .
Some people have very severe perfectionism which is related to other psychological issues such as depression or personality disorders. Therapy is efficient in these cases too, but it will likely take more time for improvements to become visible.
Does Online Therapy Work for Perfectionism?
Yes, it does work – recently a study has been published which tested the effects of online CBT for perfectionism. The intervention significantly improved the overall psychological functioning of participants and reduced overall levels of perfectionism . So, you’re likely to benefit from therapy whether you’re looking to have your sessions in-person or online.
Tips to get you started Managing Perfectionism
There are certain things you can do on your own to start tackling your perfectionism, even before starting therapy:
- Get a second opinion – even though you may not think that the job is done, other people may think differently. Exposing yourself to another’s honest and trusted opinion can help you slowly dismantle your perfectionistic, all-or-nothing beliefs.
- Take some time to unwind and relax – (self-oriented) perfectionists often work too much, which in turn affects performance; taking some time off will relieve the pressure and help you recommence working with more energy and drive.
- Ask other people what they think about your standards. Chances are you might realise yours are higher than the average.
- Understand that perfectionism can be changed – don’t describe yourself exclusively in terms of performance and what others think about you.
- Compare the standards you’re applying to yourself and those you apply to others. If you notice a drastic difference, this might be a telling sign of perfectionism. Try to refocus your mind on the greater importance of completing the task and meeting basic requirements, rather than attempting to finish it perfectly.
Our Therapists Specialised in Perfectionism Therapy
All of our therapists are qualified psychologists, psychotherapists or counsellors registered with several professional bodies. These include the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the British Psychological Society (BPS), as well as BACP, UKCP and BABCP.
Get professional help and Perfectionism Therapy in London or Online today. Contact us for a free 15 min consultation with an expert therapist to see if our help would fit your needs.
The Therapist l had was absolutely brilliant with me. He had patience with me and bit by bit l gained a little of confidence to try and get out and go on the buses.
He deserves an award and if l could l would in the beginning l thought how is this person going to get me back on public transport but he did he gave me the confidence l lost and now have back.
I will never forget him and what he has done for me. I wish him nothing but the best in his life.
My therapist was excellent. I highly recommend her and I am truly thankful for my sessions, I left feeling confident and positive.
The mental tools, systems and approaches I have been able to develop with her and use in my life have been hugely beneficial.
Thank you to all at Therapy Central.
The Therapist really gave me the space to talk and express my feelings and fears in a very comforting environment.
She was there not only to listen, but challenge my thinking, guide me during the uncertainty I was experiencing and give me useful and practical tips to improve my mental health and wellbeing. Highly recommended!
Working with the therapist has been a life-changing experience. Each session has been invaluable, helping me gain a good understanding of CBT methodology enabling me to incorporate ways to combat stress and anxiety in my daily life.
The Therapist shows that she really cares and has the ability to make you feel calm whilst discussing any personal issue.
Fees & Insurances
Therapy, Counselling and CBT sessions are 50 minutes long and are usually held at regular weekly time slots.
15 Minute initial
£105 - £120
Your Private Healthcare Insurance Provider
Get Started with Therapy for Perfectionism in London & Online
Perfectionism is a complex psychological issue which can affect all spheres of life.
This issue may require focused, systematic psychological work and understanding, something our professionals here at Therapy Central will be able to provide.
Contact us for a free 15 min consultation, and start working your way through perfectionism and gradually free yourself of its burden.
Get professional help and perfectionism therapy in London & Online today. You can also get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (+44) 020 348 82797.
What happens after I make an enquiry?
After receiving your enquiry we’ll contact you to organise a FREE phone consultation. You will be able to tell us more about your specific circumstances and needs and ask any questions you have. Then, if you want to proceed with therapy or counselling, we’ll match you with the therapist(s) with the best expertise to help you with your challenges and send you a list of their available appointment slots. If you’re satisfied with one of these, we can then go ahead and book your first appointment. You can also request to work with a specific practitioner and, depending on availability we’ll try accomodate this.
What happens at my first appointment with the therapist?
Your first session will likely be different than future appointments. You and your therapist will get to know each other and will begin to build a working alliance. It will be a chance to have the confidential space to express your circumstances, feelings and thoughts and being listened to with depth, attention, empathy and without judgement . Your therapist will likely ask you more about your reasons for seeking therapy, and any symptoms you’re experiencing. You may also be asked questions about your past and the history of your issues, as well as how they currently impact your life in the present. Finally, your first session may be a powerful place to discuss what you would like to achieve with therapy and agree on the length, methods and approaches of treatment.
Is online therapy effective?
If you choose online over in-person therapy rest assured that this has been proven to be just as effective as regular face to face therapy, and in some cases even more effective. In addition, choosing online therapy brings additional benefits, for example avoiding longer waiting times, greater flexibility with appointments and you won’t need to travel to our practice. You can enjoy online therapy from the comfort of your home.
How long the Therapy/counselling sessions last?
Therapy/counselling sessions last 50 minutes and are held at regular weekly time slots. On occasions we are able to allow some flexibility. This can be discussed with your therapist.
Do you offer reduced rates/concessions?
We offer low-cost rates at £60 per session to people with a low income, unemployed or students. Please highlight in your enquiry if you would like a concession rate and how you qualify for this. Depending on the availability of our therapists, we’ll do our best to accommodate your request.
Do you have a cancellation policy?
We have a 48 hours no-fee cancellation policy. However you will be charged for sessions missed without giving the full notice.
Our Practice in Central London
Our comfortable and confidential therapy rooms are conveniently located 3 min walk from Oxford Circus station, in Central London (see map below). Change starts with Talking!
 Stoeber, J. How Other-Oriented Perfectionism Differs from Self-Oriented and Socially Prescribed Perfectionism. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 36, 329–338 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-013-9397-7
 Ong, C. W., Lee, E. B., Krafft, J., Terry, C. L., Barrett, T. S., Levin, M. E., & Twohig, M. P. (2019). A randomized controlled trial of acceptance and commitment therapy for clinical perfectionism. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 22, 100444.
 Riley, C., Lee, M., Cooper, Z., Fairburn, C. G., & Shafran, R. (2007). A randomised controlled trial of cognitive-behaviour therapy for clinical perfectionism: A preliminary study. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45(9), 2221-2231.
 Shafran, R., Wade, T. D., Egan, S. J., Kothari, R., Allcott-Watson, H., Carlbring, P., … & Andersson, G. (2017). Is the devil in the detail? A randomised controlled trial of guided internet-based CBT for perfectionism. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 95, 99-106.