11 Unexpected Differences Between Anxiety And Perfectionism

While both can leave you feeling stressed out and on edge, sometimes it is hard to distinguish signs of an anxiety disorder from perfectionism. "Perfectionism is distinct from anxiety in that, for some perfectionists, having high or specific expectations for oneself, one's environment, or for others may generally work out OK and not cause tremendous stress or difficulty for that individual," clinical psychologist Lisa Stines Doane, PhD, tells Bustle.

In that way, perfectionism can be a good thing, as it can help you get things done, while meeting a high standard. But if your symptoms are due to anxiety, that sense of relief — the one you feel after ticking off everything on your to-do list, and getting sh*t done — never seems to come. Symptoms of an anxiety disorder aren't so easy to turn off, and they can even hold you back in life.

It is, however, possible for perfectionism to be a sign of anxiety. "The major factors that distinguish perfectionism from an anxiety disorder include the level of distress that is caused when things don't live up to those expectations, the amount of time spent thinking about or working towards the target of [your] perfectionism, and whether it's impairing to [your] work, family relationships, or social life," says Doane. If you believe your perfectionism may be contributing to anxiety, speaking with a therapist or a loved one can help alleviate some of your symptoms. But if you're having trouble distinguishing the two, here are a few ways experts say it's possible to tell the difference between perfectionism and anxiety.