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Perfectionist pressure means poorer health for women with Fibromyalgia

Monday 8 October 2012


From Canada's Yorke University:



TORONTO, Sept. 25, 2012 – Women suffering from fibromyalgia who exhibit perfectionist traits tend to have poorer health than their non-perfectionist peers, according to new research out of York University.

The study, published by the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, is based on a sampling of 489 women diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that predominantly affects women and is characterized by chronic pain and fatigue. It is the first large-scale investigation of fibromyalgia and perfectionism, and illustrates the toll perfectionism can take on those living with chronic illness.

Participants answered questionnaires measuring personality and perfectionist traits, along with overall health. Researchers found that those who reported either self-oriented or socially prescribed perfectionist tendencies (those who put impossibly high standards on themselves, or feel pressure to be perfect from those around them) admitted to poorer health than non-perfectionists. They reported more stress, more difficulty performing daily tasks and higher levels of pain.

“Chronic illness is difficult enough, but even more so for perfectionists,” says Gordon Flett, a psychology professor in York University’s Faculty of Health and Canada Research Chair in Personality and Health. “For women coping with fibromyalgia, there is often feel immense pressure to live up to others' seemingly impossible standards and they feel frustration, shame, and high levels of stress when they cannot meet these expectations.”

The study also found no evidence supporting the belief that perfectionism is more prevalent among women with fibromyalgia compared to the general population. However, for the subsection of fibromyalgia sufferers who ranked high in either self-oriented or socially prescribed perfectionism, intervention and behaviour modification are key to ensuring they maintain their health.

“It is clear that women with fibromyalgia who are elevated in perfectionism have greater coping difficulties,” says Flett. “They should benefit greatly from interventions designed to enhance their coping skills and ability to engage in appropriate self-regulation. Otherwise they will be frustrated by their inability to strive tenaciously, and if they still go ahead anyway, will likely exacerbate their pain experience.”

The study, “Perfectionism and health functioning in women with fibromyalgia”, was led by York University’s Danielle Molnar, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow, working in collaboration Professor Gordon Flett and Brock University’s Professor Stan W. Sadava and research associate Jennifer Colautti.


York University is helping to shape the global thinkers and thinking that will define tomorrow. York’s unwavering commitment to excellence reflects a rich diversity of perspectives and a strong sense of social responsibility that sets us apart. A York U degree empowers graduates to thrive in the world and achieve their life goals through a rigorous academic foundation balanced by real-world experiential education. As a globally recognized research centre, York is fully engaged in the critical discussions that lead to innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global social challenges. York’s 11 faculties and 28 research centres are thinking bigger, broader and more globally, partnering with 288 leading universities worldwide. York's community is strong − 55,000 students, 7,000 faculty and staff, and more than 250,000 alumni.

Media Contact:
Robin Heron, Media Relations, York University, 416 736 2100 x22097 /


The above originally appeared here.


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