Perfectionist tendencies are positively associated with suicide ideation and attempts, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of Personality.

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

A total of 13 out of 15 perfectionism dimensions were positively associated with suicidal ideation: perfectionistic concerns, socially prescribed perfectionism, concern over mistakes, doubts about actions, discrepancy, perfectionistic attitudes, perfectionistic strivings, self-oriented perfectionism, personal standards, parental perceptions, 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.

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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: perfectionistic concerns, socially prescribed perfectionism, concern over mistakes, doubts about action, FMPS-perfectionism, parental perceptions, parental criticism, and parental expectations.

Martin Smith, PhD candidate in the department of psychology at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada, and lead author on the study, called perfectionism a “potentially lethal personality disposition that may be underappreciated, underrecognized, and misunderstood.” He noted that future studies will be needed to form “a better understanding of the extent to which perfectionism predicts suicide above and beyond other established predictors of suicide, such as psychological symptoms (eg, depression) and sociocultural factors (eg, poverty).”

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