Child Perfectionism May Impact CBT Anxiety Treatment Outcomes

A recent study published in Behavior Research and Therapy investigated the effect of child perfectionism before treatment on the outcome of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for anxiety.  Perfectionism is typically defined as a trait involving personally demanding standards for performance.  Although a link has been found between perfectionism and adult anxiety treatment outcomes, there is a paucity of research on how perfectionism impacts CBT anxiety treatment in children.  Participants included 67 children ages 6-13 who were attending a group-based CBT program for their primary diagnoses of anxiety as part of a larger randomized controlled trial.  While perfectionism reduced following CBT anxiety treatment, higher levels of pre-treatment self-oriented perfectionism predicted higher levels of anxiety symptoms (self-reported) following treatment and at the 6-month follow up. Thus, some features of perfectionism may present as an obstacle for desirable treatment outcomes in children with anxiety.  Research is warranted to further understand the link between perfectionism and anxiety in children and how to enhance the ability to identify children at risk for anxiety and improve CBT interventions for anxious children.

Mitchell, J. H., Newall, C., Broeren, S., & Hudson, J. L. (September 01, 2013). The role of perfectionism in cognitive behaviour therapy outcomes for clinically anxious children. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 51, 9, 547-554.

Severe eating disorders helped by CBT

In a recent study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, investigators reported that people with severe eating disorders can be effectively treated by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that focuses on perfectionism, binge eating, and other related issues.

Two types of CBT were employed in the protocol (in addition to a wait-list control group). One CBT protocol focused exclusively on eating-disorder psychopathology and the other was a broader, more complex form that included treatment of mood intolerance, perfectionism, and low self-esteem.

The two CBT groups experienced significant improvement whereas the wait-list group experienced little change in symptoms. The authors noted that in addition to the direct benefit to people with eating disorders, another important implication of this finding is that hospital stays can be avoided for the majority of these patients.

Study authors: C. G. Fairburn, Z. Cooper, H. A. Doll, et al.