A realist synthesis of websites containing content on perfectionism: Are the descriptions and advice empirically supported?

Tracey D. Wade, Sarah J. Egan, Maggie Wleklinski, Amy O'Brien, Grace Fitzallen, Roz Shafran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background
Perfectionism is a risk factor for depression and anxiety and is increasing in young people. It is important to understand the information that youth are exposed to about perfectionism on the internet and what may be required to make this more helpful in terms of accessing empirically supported descriptions and advice.

Methods
This research used novel methodology to investigate content about perfectionism on websites by conducting a realist synthesis of the definitions of perfectionism, and the degree to which websites contain empirically supported strategies and recognise the advantages and disadvantages of perfectionism. The results were presented to people aged 18 to 24 (N = 18) with a lived experience of anxiety/depression for feedback.

Results
The search yielded 992 websites, 266 of which were included in the synthesis; only one met the criteria for excellent quality with most (56%) judged as moderate. The feelings, thoughts, and behaviours that accompany perfectionism were commonly described, and strategies included identifying cognitions and developing alternatives, moving from self-criticism to self-compassion, normalising mistakes, adjusting goals, receiving practical support, and strategies for procrastination. The young people wanted further emphasis on depression and anxiety as consequences of perfectionism that contributed to a vicious cycle. They identified interventions were difficult, with greater levels of support needed.

Conclusions
While most websites contained empirically supported information, the quality needs to improve, and further information needs to be provided on the links with anxiety and depression. Interventions for perfectionism need to have more focus on helping young people develop support networks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number119
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Psychology
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Perfectionism
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • young people
  • websites
  • realist synthesis
  • Websites
  • Depression
  • Youth
  • Anxiety

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