The Perfectionist’s Struggle with Treatment

The Perfectionist’s Struggle with Treatment

Treatment for chemical dependency or co-occurring disorders does not lend itself well to exceedingly high expectations or a perfectionistic disposition. In treating co-occurring disorders, the road out of the old life into a new one is seldom without turns or bumps. Pitfalls, snares, and starts and stops occur frequently. Progress may be made rapidly at first, then stall on an annoyingly long and flat plateau. Traffic delays caused by others frequently occur.

Perceptions of No Progress

Relapse may cause the client to feel as though no progress has been made at all. These factors do not lend themselves well to the steady, positive, often easy progress expected by the perfectionist. Rather than merely giving up, the perfectionist plugs away in self-deprecating, self-contempt, dismayed that the unrealistic goals have slipped away once again.

Setting Reasonable Expectations

Treatment progress is so rarely linear or steady. There are days where symptoms are well-managed and the client feels as if the malady will never return. This elation is frequently followed by a downturn in mood or another panic attack, convincing the perfectionistic client that this suffering will never end. More progress can be made if expectations are both more reasonably set and frequently adjusted.


Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!