A clinical interpretation of shame regulation in maladaptive perfectionism

Frans Schalkwijk*, Eus J.W. Van Someren, Rick Wassing

*Corresponding author for this work

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Maladaptive perfectionism, a transdiagnostic personality trait, is associated with depression. Shame has been associated with depressive disorders and to negatively impact its treatment. Interestingly, maladaptive perfectionism and maladaptive shame regulation strategies might be both expressions of an internalizing personality style. We applied forward and backward stepwise linear regression modeling to explain maladaptive perfectionism by association of shame coping styles in a highly powered cross-sectional study of 1436 participants. Maladaptive perfectionism was shown to have significant positive associations with the two internalizing coping styles attacking the self, and withdrawing, and negative associations with adaptive coping. Furthermore, a significant positive interaction effect was shown for the two internalizing coping styles. Our research shows that participants who adopt maladaptive perfectionism, internalize the pain of shame. Clinically, this is especially relevant during treatment: the patterns of maladaptive perfectionism must come into the open, the client feels exposed and, consistent with his shame regulation style, shame grows. Our research might account for the negative responsiveness of perfectionism to brief therapies for depression: there may not be enough focus on and time for working through the evoked shame.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-23
Number of pages5
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date13 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


This work was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) [ZONMW Neuropsychoanalysis Fund 16.561.0001 , VICI 453.07.001 ]; the Bial Foundation [grant number 253/2012 ]; and the European Research Council [grand ERC-ADG-2014-671084 INSOMNIA ].

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme671084
European Research CouncilERC-ADG-2014-671084 INSOMNIA
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek16.561.0001, VICI 453.07.001
Fundação Bial253/2012


    • Coping
    • Depression
    • Perfectionism
    • Self-conscious emotions
    • Shame


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