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The Perfect Problem: Good Things Utah

Dr. Kris Doty talks about her study on depression in women.
Dr. Kris Doty did a study on toxic perfectionism in Utah women, why women here feel the need to be perfect all the time.

Dr. Doty says she was inspired to find out what was going on during her emergency room crisis work. When she worked Sunday shifts, she saw several women from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints coming to the hospital with depression.  They would be very anxious and depressed, and it was triggered by a talk or lesson they had heard that day.  In other words, they felt they couldn't live up to what they felt was expected of them, to be perfect.

Dr. Doty says it is not because of the Church, but the culture.

So, she did qualitative research on the subject with a sample size of twenty people.  She did in-depth interviews with those women so she could understand their experiences.

Dr. Doty says during the study they discovered common themes related to the women's perceptions of the contributing factors to their depression: perfectionism, feeling judged, family of origin issues (especially disapproval from their perfectionistic mothers), being a victim of abuse, and genetics/ environment.  Also, for the self-reported active LDS women, the majority opted not to use spiritual interventions to manage their depression, only secular activities like exercise and utilizing social support systems.

Dr. Doty defines toxic perfectionism as an unhealthy drive to be the best at everything, usually out of fear of failure or being judged, or out of pride.  Sometimes it is to show you have your life together even though it may be falling apart behind closed doors.

So is there a cure? Dr. Doty suggests being gentle with yourself, forgiving yourself for your imperfections.  She also says don't hold others to the same unrealistic expectations you have for yourself and give yourself and others the permission to fail sometimes.  Also talk about it!  No one expects you to be perfect so lighten up and find joy in your life's journey.

Dr. Doty is writing articles about the findings right now, but she's also launched a survey to see what depression looks like in men and women across other faiths.  If you'd like to take part in that, take the survey here.

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