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Are you someone who:

  • Feels like what you accomplish is never quite good enough? 
  • Feels you must give more than 100 percent on everything you do or else you will be mediocre or even a failure?
  • Often puts off turning in papers or projects, waiting to get them just right?

If so, rather than simply working toward success, you may be trying to be perfect, and there exists quite a difference between aiming for a successful life and trying to achieve perfection.

What's the difference between a perfectionist and a "healthy striver"?

Perfectionist Healthy striver

Sets standards beyond reach and reason

Sets high standards, but just beyond reach

Is never satisfied by anything less than perfection

Enjoys process as well as outcome

Becomes dysfunctionally depressed when experiences failure and disappointment

Bounces back from failure and disappointment quickly and with energy

Is preoccupied with fear of failure and disapproval — this can deplete energy levels

Keeps normal anxiety and fear of failure and disapproval within bounds — uses them to create energy

Sees mistakes as evidence of unworthiness

Sees mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning

Becomes overly defensive when criticized

Reacts positively to helpful criticism

Perfectionism: How does it feel?perfectionism_grouptx.jpg

Of course we all want to be successful and produce good work in our everyday lives. Setting high expectations can be motivating and quite healthy. However, when taken to the extreme, our productivity can actually decrease. Perfectionists frequently experience many of the symptoms listed below:

  • Fear of failure. Perfectionists often equate failure to achieve their goals with a lack of personal worth or value.
  • Fear of making mistakes. Perfectionists often equate mistakes with failure. In orienting their lives around avoiding mistakes, perfectionists miss opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Fear of disapproval. If they let others see their flaws, perfectionists often fear that they will no longer be accepted. Trying to be perfect is a way of trying to protect themselves from criticism, rejection, and disapproval.
  • All-or-none thinking. Perfectionists frequently believe that they are worthless if their accomplishments are not perfect. Perfectionists have difficulty seeing situations in perspective. For example, a "straight A" student who receives a "B" might believe, "I am a total failure."
  • Overemphasis on "shoulds." Perfectionists' lives are often structured by an endless list of "shoulds" that serve as rigid rules for how their lives must be led. With such an overemphasis on shoulds, perfectionists rarely take into account their own wants and desires.
  • Believing that others are easily successful. Perfectionists tend to perceive others as achieving success with a minimum of effort, few errors, emotional stress, and maximum self-confidence. At the same time, perfectionists view their own efforts as unending and forever inadequate.

The vicious cycle of perfectionism and self-esteem

If you are a perfectionist, it is likely that you learned early in life that other people valued you because of how much you accomplished or achieved, meaning you may have learned to value yourself only on the basis of other people's approval. Thus your self-esteem may have come to be based primarily on external standards. This can leave you vulnerable and excessively sensitive to the opinions and criticism of others. In attempting to protect yourself from such criticism, you may decide that being perfect is your only defense. Below is a cycle that perfectionists often find themselves experiencing and some other consequences of perfectionism.

  1. First, perfectionists set unreachable goals, failure is inevitable.
  2. They fail to meet these goals because the goals were impossible to begin with.
  3. The constant pressure to achieve perfection and the inevitable chronic failure reduce productivity and effectiveness.
  4. This cycle leads perfectionists to be self-critical and self-blaming which results in lower self-esteem. It may also lead to anxiety and depression.
  5. Perfectionists may give up completely on their goals and set different goals thinking, "This time if only I try harder I will succeed." Such thinking sets the entire cycle in motion again.

Consequences of perfectionism

  • Depression
  • Performance anxiety
  • Test anxiety
  • Social anxiety
  • Writer's block
  • Obsessiveness
  • Compulsiveness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loneliness
  • Impatience
  • Frustration
  • Anger

What to do about perfectionism

The first step in changing from perfectionistic attitudes to healthy striving is to realize that perfectionism is undesirable. Perfection is an illusion that is unattainable. The next step is to challenge the self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that fuel perfectionism. Some of the following strategies may help:

  • Set realistic and reachable goals based on your own wants and needs and what you have accomplished in the past. This will enable you to achieve and also will lead to a greater sense of self-esteem.
  • Set subsequent goals in a sequential manner. As you reach a goal, set your next goal one level beyond your present level of accomplishment.
  • Experiment with your standards for success. Choose any activity and instead of aiming for 100 percent, try for 90 percent, 80 percent, or even 60 percent success. This will help you to realize that the world does not end when you are not perfect.
  • Focus on the process of doing an activity not just on the end result. Evaluate your success not only in terms of what you accomplished but also in terms of how much you enjoyed the task. Recognize that there can be value in the process of pursuing a goal.
  • Use feelings of anxiety and depression as opportunities to ask yourself, "Have I set up impossible expectations for myself in this situation?"
  • Confront the fears that may be behind your perfectionism by asking yourself, "What am I afraid of? What is the worst thing that could happen?"
  • Recognize that many positive things can only be learned by making mistakes. When you make a mistake ask, "What can I learn from this experience?" More specifically, think of a recent mistake you have made and list all the things you can learn from it.
  • Avoid all-or-none thinking in relation to your goals. Learn to discriminate the tasks you want to give high priority to from those tasks that are less important to you. On less important tasks, choose to put forth less effort.

Once you have tried these suggestions, you are likely to realize that perfectionism is not a helpful or necessary influence in your life. There are alternative ways to think that are more beneficial. Not only are you likely to achieve more without your perfectionism, but you will feel better about yourself in the process.

Additional resources

Source: Some content used with permission from University of Michigan Counseling Center.

 


Are you concerned that your symptoms could be ADD/ADHD?

Symptoms commonly associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are also caused by a variety of other illnesses and conditions. These symptoms include:

  • Difficulty focusing in a variety of situations
  • Problems getting organized
  • Not listening when spoken to
  • Having trouble sitting still or waiting in line
  • Constantly interrupting others
  • Being easily distracted
  • Impulsiveness

Hall Health Center can offer screenings for mental illness and other conditions, but we are unable to test for ADD/ADHD or other learning disabilities.  You may schedule an appointment with us to be screened for other illnesses, and if we suspect ADD/ADHD may be the reason for your symptoms, we will refer you to a provider that can evaluate you for ADD/ADHD.

Have you been diagnosed previously with ADD/ADHD and need medication?

Due to the potential for abuse of ADD/ADHD medications, you will need to take the following steps in order to receive a prescription for medication:

  • Fax your medical records, including your ADD/ADHD evaluation documents, to our Medical Records Department at (206) 616-4683. These records must include a full psychological evaluation, with documentation of any other mental illness and/or learning disorders.
  • Schedule an appointment for a records review with a Hall Health Center provider.

Additional resources


Your guide to staying in tip-top physical and mental condition

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Just as regular maintenance is health insurance for your car, it is also health insurance for your body. Maintaining your health now will prevent you from needing major "repairs" later. Making healthy choices now will save you a lot of trouble in the future.


Medical Assistant (MA)

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insurance.jpg

What is the Affordable Care Act?

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare or the ACA, is a law intended to reform the health care system and make health insurance more affordable.  The law has gone into effect in stages.  For example, a provision that requires insurance to fully cover preventive services (like cancer screenings) was implemented in 2010, while the part of the law that stops insurance companies from denying people health insurance because of pre-existing conditions takes effect in 2014.

If you already have health insurance

Say you've already got health insurance.  How does Affordable Care Act affect you?  Well, there are a couple of ways:

  • If you're insured through a parent, you are eligible to continue to receive that coverage up until you're 26 years old.  That means that you've got more time to figure out the other Affordable Care Act provisions before you need to start arranging for your own coverage.
  • Your insurance now covers the full cost of some services that are meant to prevent illness, including birth control, regardless of whether your plan includes a deductible, co-insurance or co-pays.  These services include things like immunizations (like that pesky measles vaccine you have to get in order to attend college!), pap smears and birth control.  Even if your insurance has a deductible, or an amount that you have to pay out-of-pocket before your coverage kicks in, you won't be charged for these services.  Same thing goes for co-insurance (the percent of a service or visit that your insurance company normally makes you pay for) and co-pays (the amount you pay at your doctor's front desk or when you pick up a medication at the pharmacy).
  • If you're a graduate teaching assistant (TA) or research assistant (RA), and have the Graduate Appointee Insurance Plan (GAIP), expect expanded coverage for preventive care.  Otherwise, your benefits should remain mostly unchanged.

If you already have health insurance, you don't need to do anything new or different, unless your insurance company says so.  Be sure to read about the preventive services that are now fully covered by your plan, regardless of whether you have a deductible, co-insurance or co-pays. 

If you purchase student health insurance through UW

If you buy the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) through the University of Washington, you should expect to find very little changed.  However, SHIP is subject to the same requirements as other health insurance policies, and therefore now fully covers preventive services like birth control and immunizations.  You can read about your benefits under SHIP here.

Please note that SHIP will no longer be offered starting Fall Quarter of 2015. Click here for more information.

If you don't have health insurance

Starting January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act will require everyone to purchase a health insurance plan, just like the government requires people who own a car to buy car insurance.  Fortunately, if you're a typical college student without much income, there are subsidies available to lower the cost of private insurance.  If you are low-income, you might be eligible for public insurance, also known as Medicaid, for which you would not need to pay. As you apply for the insurance through an online exchange, you will be prompted to enter income and demographic information. The system will determine your eligibility for Medicaid and subsidies based on this information.

Eligibility information for Washington residents

If you are an uninsured resident of Washington State, you may have two options:

Curious as to how much you might be looking at paying for your health insurance?  Here's a special calculator that estimates your monthly payment for health insurance (though keep in mind that you might be eligible for Medicaid if you earn less than 138% of the Federal Poverty Level).

If you enrolling in private insurance through the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, there are presently only three plans that are contracted with Hall Health Center and other parts of UW Medicine.  They are:

  • BridgeSpan
  • Molina Healthcare
  • Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW-HIX)

If you find that you qualify for Medicaid (aka Washington Apple Health or DSHS), please be aware that we are contracted with these three plans:

  • Amerigroup Washington (AMG)
  • Molina Healthcare of Washington (MHC)
  • Coordinated Care Corporation (CCC)

If you enroll in one of these plans, you can receive care, including mental health services, at Hall Health Center.  We are not contracted with Community Health Plan of Washington and United Health Care Community Health or have limited services that we are able to provide.

Eligibility information for residents of other states

Depending on where you're from, your home state may or may not have its own health insurance exchange (a website set up to facilitate finding and purchasing a health insurance plan).  You can use the federal government's Health Insurance Marketplace to get routed to your state's exchange.  If your state does not operate an exchange, you can use the federal government's version to buy your plan.

Similarly, your state may not have opted to expand Medicaid eligibility.  Read more here about the Medicaid expansion.

International students

If you are a citizen of another country attending the University of Washington, you are required to enroll in the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP). You can read about your benefits here.

Other provisions of the Affordable Care Act

There are other elements of the Affordable Care Act that may affect you:

  • Starting in 2014, insurance companies can no longer reject you or charge you more because you have a medical condition
  • If you don't have health insurance at the end of 2014, you may have to pay a penalty (probably less than $100).  Take a look at this graphic to find out if the penalty could apply to you.

Additional resources

Online

Get help enrolling through a Patient Navigator (a health insurance expert).

Read about insurance and Hall Health.

Check out this cartoon-style infographic on what the Affordable Care Act means for young people.

The federal government's HealthCare.gov website offers lots of resources to help you make sense of the Affordable Care Act.

Washington State's Health Plan Finder is where you'll purchase health insurance if you need to buy an individual (i.e., not employer- or parent-sponsored) plan and are a Washington resident.

If you're not a Washington State resident, the federal government's Health Insurance Marketplace can help you purchase a plan.

 

Authored by: Hall Health Center Health Promotion staff

Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Administration staff, January 2014


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