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153520 - A realist synthisis.pdf (1.03 MB)

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

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 13:46 authored by Wade, TD, Egan, SJ, Wleklinski, M, O'Brian, A, Grace FitzallenGrace Fitzallen, Shafran, R

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.

Conclusion: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.


Publication title

BMC psychology








School of Psychological Sciences


BioMed Central

Place of publication


Rights statement

© 2021. The Authors. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Determinants of health; Mental health; Adolescent health

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