Suicidal behavior, thoughts associated with perfectionist tendencies

Perfectionist tendencies are positively associated with suicidal thoughts and attempts, according to the results of a study published in the personality diary.

The researchers conducted a literature review of 45 studies, which included undergraduate students, medical students, community adults, and psychiatric patients (n=11,747). The association of various types of perfectionism and correlations with suicidal ideation and attempts was assessed using a random-effects meta-analysis.

A total of 13 out of 15 dimensions of perfectionism were positively associated with suicidal ideation: perfectionist concerns, socially prescribed perfectionism, worry about mistakes, doubts about actions, discrepancies, perfectionist attitudes, perfectionist efforts, self-focused perfectionism, personal norms, perceptions Parenting, Parental Criticism and Parental Expectations, and Frost and colleagues’ Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (FMPS-) perfectionism. Neither other-oriented perfectionism nor organization were significantly associated with suicidal ideation.

After controlling for baseline suicidal ideation, socially prescribed perfectionism was positively associated with longitudinal increases in suicidal ideation.

Small positive associations with suicide attempts were noted in the following perfectionism dimensions: perfectionist concerns, socially prescribed perfectionism, worry about mistakes, doubts about action, FMPS perfectionism, parental perceptions, parental criticisms, and parental expectations.

Martin Smith, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada, and lead author of the study, called perfectionism a “potentially deadly personality disposition that can be underestimated, under-recognized and misunderstood”. He noted that future studies will be needed to form “a better understanding of the extent to which perfectionism predicts suicide beyond other established predictors of suicide, such as psychological symptoms (e.g., depression) and socio-cultural factors (e.g. poverty)”.


Smith MM, Sherry SB, Chen S, et al. The pernicosity of perfectionism: a meta-analytic review of the perfectionism-suicide relationship [published online July 22, 2017]. J Pers. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12333