The Truth About Teen Suicide -- What Parents Should Watch Out For

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Identifying Perfectionism

Dr. Gordon Flett, PhD, psychology professor at York University in Canada and author of a number of studies on the dangers of perfectionism, identifies four types of perfectionism:

  • Self-oriented perfectionism, in which there exist exceedingly high self standards and a drive to achieve personal, absolute goals.
  • Other-oriented perfectionism, characterized by demanding perfection from others, which can cause great interpersonal conflict.
  • Socially prescribed perfectionism, in which the perception (which may or may not be the case) is that others or society expects perfection and has imposed these demands on the self.
  • Perfectionistic self-presentation, characterized by the need to seem perfect and to avoid revealing imperfections in public.

"One of the problems is that even when the perfectionist is highly accomplished, he or she may not have any satisfaction with the accomplishments because the standards for self-evaluation are grossly inflated," Flett says. "We are quite concerned that some adolescents if they are perfectionistic and suicidal may 'put on a happy face' and never let down their guard, so the people around them may think that everything is fine when it is just the opposite."

The phenomenon is so common, Flett explains, that it has a name: Richard Cory Suicides, named for the famous poem about a man who seemed perfectly contented until the night he took his own life.

Continued on page 3:  The New Warning Signs


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