Maladaptive perfectionism when anxious?


I recently was ignoring, or trying to contain, anxiety about various triggers and stressors. Some trauma related some not. I thought I was doing ok until I got really picky about a french fries. It was silly and meaningless. Sometimes I will counter it by messing something up on purpose just to get my brain out of the spot. It's a long standing habitual maladaptive way of coping, sort of. I think it's my way of trying to find something I can control to reduce anxiety. Pretty much never works but still comes up from time to time. Anyone else struggle with this?


perfectionist ocd is one of my ptsd psycho ticks. when i first started psychotherapy in 1972, the symptom was so pronounced that it was impossible to ignore and became one of my first therapy focuses. in 1972, combat ptsd was still being called, "shell shock" and civilian ptsd was still being called a cruel host of stigmatic names.

as my therapy progressed, i came to believe that many of my ocd ticks can be translated into valid therapy tools. used mindfully, the quest for the perfect french fry can help me process some of the cruel realities i am powerless to change. if i don't alienate him/her for the imperfect french fries in front of me, my waiter might even be willing to join me in the quest for the perfect french fry. if not, maybe we can get a gentle, compassionate joke out of the imperfection on my plate.

it's okay if that didn't make a lick of sense to you. it be an insensible phenom.


Yes & No.

I get into a place where if I can’t do a thing/have a thing perfectly? I won’t do it, at all. I just throw the gearshift in neutral and live without… until I can do it “right”. Or until doing it right doesn’t matter, anymore.

99.999% of the time, that just works for me. I’m perfectly happy sans XYZ, but I will lose my shit, when I don’t have the energy to spare, much less on nonsense… over ridiculously small details. Those small details, though, are like the fuse running to a pile of dynamite. I know me. I know what happens if that fuse gets lit. (Very bad things. Completely out of proportion to the cause. Directed, if given any direction at all, at targets that don’t rate it.)

The point oo1 % of the time that doesn’t work? Is when it’s a life-necessary deal like food/water/shelter/medical care. If I’ve gotten stubborn about one of those things, when life hangs in the balance, I need to just push myself to having the damn meltdown, already. At which point those small details don’t matter anymore. Until I lower that stress level, though, I’m just gonna be sparky-sparky-BOOM!-man about utter nonsense. Whether it’s the toilet roll is around the wrong way or the wristwatch is 3 degrees off, or it’s chicken sausage instead of pork sausage, or whatever. Little things being “wrong” that I usually wouldn’t blink at? Become great big huge giant f*cking deals.