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Perfectionism and the Link to Addiction

Perfectionism and addiction share some traits, like negative thinking patterns and unrealistic expectations. Understanding how the two are related can help you avoid cycles of self-sabotage. Here, we’ll explore the roots of perfectionism, how it shows up and connects with addiction, and how to rewire the thoughts and habits that keep you in self-sabotaging patterns.

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Understanding the Impact of Perfectionism

Along with food, water, clothing, and shelter, the need for attention from others should be counted as a basic need. From the moment we exit the womb, we are in need of other people. We need them as family, friends, co-workers, and passersby who remind us we are part of something bigger than the space we occupy.

As children, we need attention all the time. We need to be clothed, sheltered, fed, and protected. As we get older, our needs evolve. However, we still seem to need a lot of attention from others although the kind of attention we seek changes. The problem with this inherent need for attention is we don't always go by getting the attention we need in the right ways.

The Problem With Perfectionism

One of the most serious mistakes you can make in your quest for wanted attention is to think you need to be perfect to get the attention you want. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just the same, far too many people sell their souls to the perfectionism devil, a huge mistake more times than not.

The drive to be perfect usually starts when children enter school. For most kids, it's the first time they will be exposed to an environment where they are constantly being asked to achieve. In their quest to achieve, kids also start to realize they must compete for attention. Almost all kids feel the need to compete for the teacher's attention. Many kids also find themselves competing for attention from old and new friends.

In the pursuit of attention, human beings often perceive that the best way to get attention is to be perfect. Act perfect. Get perfect grades. Be the perfect friend, partner, sibling, or child. If they can somehow be exactly what everyone else wants, they'll get the attention they need and want.

Where the quest for perfection always falls apart is at the point people come to the realization that perfection is a subjective concept. Sure, there are things like grades that can be used to quantify perfection, but for the most part, there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to behavior.Therein lies the problem most people face in their quest to be perfect. They are trying to attain the unattainable. That leads to frustration, which sometimes leads people to cross lines they shouldn't cross to try to get the fleeting attention they need.

The Link Between Perfectionism and Addiction

When the quest for perfection leads to negative behaviors, otherwise good people get lost. There are out of their element when pushing the limits of what is considered acceptable behavior. As their frustration and failure at perfection increase, their stress builds, which can quickly become unmanageable. This causes people to start looking for more and better ways to manage their stress.What do we know about desperate people as it relates to dealing with stress? Far too often, people will go in search of stress relief anywhere they can find it. That includes in the arms of drugs and alcohol.

Abusing drugs is always illegal and never good. Having a drink to relax is a perfectly acceptable way of relaxing. However, having too many drinks too often is never a good idea. Here is the problem people face when they take drugs or drink to relieve stress. They risk going over two lines.First, they risk going from a recreational drug user or drinker seeking stress relief to a "dependent" drug user or drinker. They further risk going from a "dependent" drug user or drinker to an addiction sufferer who has become enslaved by their drug of choice.

Once addiction becomes a reality, bad behaviors often become worse behaviors, especially for perfectionists and attention-seekers. Rest assured, there are some bad attention-seeking behaviors that can lead to places better not visited. Health problems also become a possibility as the depth of addiction deepens.

As a reminder, this is a common path for people who shoot for perfection to get attention only to fall short and end up an addiction sufferer.

Helping Addiction Sufferers Understand the Whys

As one of the top addiction recovery centers in Southern/Central California, we understand all too well how the question of perfection and attention-seeking can lead to addiction. We see it in real-time with many new clients as we start the addiction treatment process.

At Hollywood Hills Recovery, our job is to lead addiction sufferers from addiction down the path of recovery. To do that, we are challenged to help each client find the root cause or causes that drove them to their addictive behaviors.

One of our favorite client profiles with which we like to work is the addiction sufferer who is an attention seeker. Treating these clients is quite a challenge because they can't seem to escape the need to misbehave to keep getting attention. They'll lie, deceive and take an oath f silence if it will earn them attention. They don't even seem to mind negative attention. They just want/need to be the center of someone's universe.

While treating the perfectionist and attention seeker is challenging, we don't really change our approach. We still implement the treatment option or options that we believe are most appropriate for each client.

As a point of reference, here is a short list of the addiction treatment options from which one of our therapists might choose:

• Traditional one-on-one therapy

• Evidence-based therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectal Behavioral Therapy

• Holistic therapies

• Group therapy

• Family therapy

Regardless of the methods used, the goal is always the same: find the root cause or causes of each client's addiction.

For clients, it's really a journey of self-discovery. We lead them step-by-step from the time prior to their substance abuse to the point they realized they had a horrible addiction issue. If the causation seems to be tied to attention-seeking and the drive for perfection, we try to lead them through the thought process. That would be the process of them wanting attention and being considered perfect to their bad behaviors, including substance abuse.

Ultimately, we are doing our best to drive clients to the light that will help them see they don't need to be perfect. They just need to be themselves. As our clients come to these realizations, they can begin to create the basis for building better coping skills.

Of course, caution is always warranted. More than a few clients have gone through therapy only to find that attention-seeking and the quest for perfection were not the actual causes. Instead, they were mere symptoms that masked a much deeper issue.

This caution is exactly why we are always flexible when discussing how long treatment will take.

Seeking Help Through Proper Treatment

There is nothing wrong with someone wanting attention. There is nothing wrong with people striving to be perfect. It's only when the drive for perfection and attention becomes an obsession that problems like substance abuse could become part of the package. Remember, there is no such thing as the perfect person.

If you are currently suffering from an addiction issue, we invite you to contact one of our reps at Hollywood Hills Recovery. We'll give you plenty of healthy attention to help you recover from your addiction.

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