23 August 2022

Identify as a perfectionist? New research suggests it could lead to alcoholism

It might be time to reign back those late nights at the office...

In this era of late-stage capitalism, perfectionism is one of the most desired personality traits around. Why work a 9-5 when you can devote your entire life to your job — who indeed needs a social life or quality time with family? But apparently, this characteristic is something that could tip you over the line when it comes to alcohol abuse, according to a new study. 

The research, which was conducted in Belgium and published recently in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, put forth the idea that perfectionism could increase people’s tendency to lean towards alcoholism. Severe alcohol use disorder (SAUD), they proffered, was related to unrealistic standards towards one’s self and a heightened awareness of other people’s expectations. 

To measure the link between perfectionism and SAUD, researchers looked at two groups of 65 adults who were of similar ages and sexes — one consisted of people who suffer from SAUD, and the other without. Both groups completed the Hewitt Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, which measures the trait. They found that 79 per cent of respondents with SAUD exhibited “greater self-oriented perfectionism” than the other groups, and accordingly, 88 per cent of respondents with SAUD also exhibited greater socially prescribed perfectionism, as well as reported higher levels of depression and anxiety. 

In a statement, the Research Society on Alcoholism said: “This is consistent with what is known about self-related and interpersonal factors in severe AUD, such as reduced self-esteem, a tendency to self-blame, and a divergence between people’s ideal and actual selves.” 

According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol use disorder is a “pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol or continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems.” Risk factors include starting at an early age, family history, trauma, depression and other mental health problems. 

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