Diagnosis: Adolescence!

Posted on May 3, 2013

Adolescence. You, like many others probably cringe when you hear this word. Whether it’s because you are dealing with the un-pleasantries of raising your own adolescent or have not-so-fond memories of your past, the common denominator that effects us all is another very scary word: change.

As a licensed psychologist, working with adolescents is my specialty. As no two patients ever present with identical problems, most adolescents come in to therapy struggling with change. I have created a brief series of articles that will hopefully help you understand some of the issues that you and your adolescent may be dealing with.

Joshua D. Fink, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist

Joshua D. Fink, Psy.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Psychology Today Profile

Topics that will be covered include:

  • Perfectionism
  • Oppositional Defiance versus “normal” adolescent anger
  • Anxiety versus ADHD
  • Adjustment disorder and divorce

This month’s topic will surround issues pertaining to perfectionism.

  • True or False: Most perfectionistic adolescents truly feel as if they are perfect.

    Perfectionism is defined as a person’s striving towards flawlessness. This flawlessness is characterized through a person’s performance level being set at an unreasonably high standard. When these standards are not met, disappointment ensues. This disappointment may very well have a negative impact on an adolescent’s self-esteem.

  • True or False: Perfectionistic traits are learned early in life.

    Although certain negative feelings associated with perfectionism are observed in early childhood, most negative feelings are expressed during adolescence.

Generally speaking, perfectionism is “passed along” from parent to child. The clinical term for this is transgenerational drift. At a young age, a child will observe a parent exhibiting many of the negative emotions of perfectionism. These emotions are often projected onto the child, without conscious awareness. This may be noted in a parent’s overuse of “should” as a way of setting rigid rules.

Four common negative states of a perfectionistic adolescent:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fear of making mistakes
  3. Fear of disapproval
  4. All-or-none thinking

How to help?

  1. Set realistic and attainable goals.
  2. Experiment with standards of success.
  3. Focus on the activity itself, not just the end result.
  4. Emphasize all of the positive outcomes from learning from a mistake.

With a clearer understanding of perfectionism, the adolescent can become more aware of realistic versus unrealistic beliefs leading to a more desirable level of self-esteem.