How do I avoid the perfectionism trap?

Dear Dr. Saline,

I recently started my first full-time job after graduating from college and feel like I’m struggling with the adjustment. I’ve had the usual ups and downs in school which come with ADHD. But now that I’m working, my tendency toward perfectionism has become overwhelming. Worst of all, I don’t think my work is any better as a result of all the extra effort I put into it. Do you have any advice on how I can get unstuck from the perfectionism trap?

Thank you,


From Dr. Saline:

Dear Kathy,

First of all, congratulations on your first full-time job! It’s an important milestone, and it’s natural to take time to figure out new routines and skills as you make this transition. Wanting things to go well reflects your desire to do well. But when this desire morphs into a need for everything to be just right, anyone can tip over into complicated perfectionism.

Perfectionism is a common issue for kids and adults with ADHD who simply want to avoid making another mistake (again). While banishing perfectionism forever may be your goal, it’s not that realistic. Instead, you can learn to turn down its noise and create more effective coping strategies for motivation and quality.

Perfectionism and ADHD

For folks with ADHD, perfectionism can be a way to overcompensate for feeling not good enough or being “less than.” It’s also a way to hyperfocus on a task, project, or idea as you push yourself to get “just right.” The trouble with perfectionism is that it can be a double-edged sword. When used productively, it can be a driving force in helping you do your best work. But it can also create a great deal of troubling anxiety that actually hinders progress. It’s all too easy to get stuck on one detail, go down a rabbit hole, and then lose sight of the bigger picture.

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