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When we think of perfectionism, most of us think of people that are highly successful. We may picture someone who is a Type A personality, always meeting deadlines and being the best at everything they do. While this may be true for some people with perfectionism, there is another side to this personality trait that is often overlooked. This other side is made up of people who struggle with high-functioning anxiety and perfectionism.


What is high functioning anxiety and perfectionism?

Perfectionism is often thought of as a desirable quality. After all, who doesn’t want to be perfect? However, perfectionism can actually be quite harmful, especially for college students.

Perfectionists tend to be very hard on themselves. They are never satisfied with anything less than perfection and they beat themselves up when they make even the smallest mistake. This can lead to a lot of anxiety and stress.

Perfectionists also have a hard time finishing projects. They are always second-guessing themselves and they are never quite sure if what they are doing is good enough. This can make it difficult to get things done in a timely manner.

College students who struggle with this may appear to have it all together on the outside, but on the inside, they are feeling anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed.

They may be putting a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed and meet everyone’s expectations. This can lead to them feeling like they are not good enough and that they need to be perfect to be accepted. For college students, this may look like constant studying, never going out, and always saying yes to everything.

Finally, perfectionists often have a hard time taking risks. They are so afraid of making a mistake that they avoid taking chances. This can hold them back from trying new things and reaching their full potential.

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What are some of the symptoms of high functioning anxiety and perfectionism?

It’s not always easy to tell when someone is struggling with high-functioning anxiety or perfectionism. After all, these are both traits that can be seen as positive qualities. But when they start to negatively impact your life, it’s time to get help.

Some common symptoms of high functioning anxiety and perfectionism:

Constantly striving for perfection

Being extremely self-critical

Feeling like you can never relax 

Avoiding taking risks

Procrastinating out of fear of making mistakes

Setting unrealistic standards for yourself

Feeling like you have to be perfect

Overthinking everything

 Having difficulty delegating tasks

Worrying about what other people think of you

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If you are struggling with high functioning anxiety and perfectionism, there are ways to cope and get help.

Here are 5 ways that therapy can help High Functioning Anxiety and Perfectionism:

Therapy can help you understand your perfectionism and where it comes from. 

In therapy, you explore the underlying reasons why you feel the need to be perfect. It could stem from childhood experiences, societal pressure, or even a fear of failure. By understanding the root cause of your perfectionism, you can start to dismantle the negative thought patterns that keep you stuck in a cycle of self-criticism and overachievement.

Therapy can also help you recognize the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism. While healthy striving is focused on growth and improvement, perfectionism is often rooted in a fear of not being good enough. By learning to differentiate between these two mindsets, you can start to set more realistic and achievable goals for yourself.

Therapy can help you learn how to set realistic standards for yourself.

In therapy, you work with a trained professional to examine your goals and expectations. A therapist can help you assess whether your standards are realistic and achievable based on your strengths and limitations. Together, you can identify areas where you may need to adjust your expectations to better align with your abilities and resources.

Through therapy, you can also learn how to break down large goals into smaller, more manageable steps. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the task at hand. Another key component of setting realistic standards is learning how to prioritize your goals. A therapist can help you identify the most important goals and develop strategies for achieving them first. This can help you avoid spreading yourself too thin and feeling like you’re not making progress.

Therapy can help you learn how to cope with anxiety and stress.

During therapy sessions, you can learn various coping mechanisms and techniques to manage anxiety and stress. Your therapist may help you identify the triggers that contribute to your anxiety and work with you to develop strategies to cope with those triggers effectively. These strategies may include relaxation techniques, cognitive restructuring, and mindfulness practices. Additionally, therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment where you can express and process your emotions, thoughts, and feelings without judgment.

Therapy can help you learn how to accept yourself for who you are.

In therapy, you can explore your beliefs and values, and develop a deeper understanding of yourself, which can lead to self-acceptance. Your therapist can help you identify negative thoughts and beliefs that may be hindering self-acceptance and work with you to challenge and reframe those beliefs. Through the process of therapy, you can develop a sense of self-compassion, learn to acknowledge your strengths and limitations, and cultivate a more positive self-image.

Therapy can also help you learn how to set healthy boundaries and assert your needs. By learning to prioritize your own well-being and speak up for yourself, you can build a more authentic and fulfilling relationship with yourself and others.

Therapy can help you find your worth outside of your accomplishments.

In therapy, you can work with a therapist to explore and identify your values and core beliefs. By focusing on what truly matters to you, you can find worth in who you are as a person, rather than solely relying on your accomplishments. Through therapy, you can also learn to differentiate between intrinsic and extrinsic values, and identify which values you want to prioritize in your life. This can lead to a shift in your mindset, allowing you to feel more fulfilled and content with your life.

A therapist can also help you reframe your understanding of success and failure. Instead of seeing failure as a reflection of your worth, you can learn to see it as a natural part of the learning process.

Therapy can also help you identify other sources of fulfillment and meaning in your life, such as relationships, hobbies, spirituality, or personal values. By exploring these areas, you can learn to appreciate yourself for who you are, rather than what you do.

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Types of Therapy for Anxiety & Perfectionism

Many different types of therapy can be effective for high-functioning anxiety in college students. Some of the most common and well-known types of therapy include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
      • Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on helping the individual to identify and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety.
  • Exposure Therapy
      • Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing the individual to the situations or objects that trigger anxiety.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Each individual will respond differently to different types of therapy, so it is important to work with a therapist who can help you find the best treatment for your needs.


Begin Counseling for College Students in New Bern, NC

If you are struggling with high-functioning anxiety and perfectionism, reach out to a therapist for help. Therapy can be an incredibly helpful way to learn how to cope with your struggles and start living a more fulfilling life. Our team of caring therapists can offer support from our New Bern, NC-based practice and across the state. You can start your therapy journey with Renewed Wellness Counseling by following these simple steps:

  1. Complete our consult form
  2. Meet with a caring therapist 
  3. Start overcoming anxiety and perfectionism!

Other Therapy Services Offered With Renewed Wellness Counseling

Our team understands that college can be an equally rewarding and stressful time in life. This is why we are happy to offer multiple mental health services in addition to counseling for young adults. Our therapists specialize in therapy for military families, chronic illness counseling, stress and anxiety counseling, and addiction counseling. We also offer life transition counseling and trauma therapy. Let’s work together to get you to a good place!


-Hoffman, L., & Matloub, H. (2017). Perfectionism in College Students: The Roles of Anxiety, Stress, and Coping. Journal of American College Health, 65(sup), S22-S29. doi: