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Perfectionism: the perfect route to depression

Perfectionism: the perfect route to depression

Perfectionism, in a nutshell, involves measuring everything you do against standards that don’t exist. Unfortunately, when these standards don’t get met its usually followed by a wave of disappointment, self-criticism, frustration and regret which amalgamate to form depression. This can stick around for a while stripping you of your motivation and sense of hope and often creating more and more perceived failures. The desire to do something amazingly well, and the need to relax and stop controlling its outcome, is a familiar place for me. I’ve felt this perfectionistic pull many times and at its core, it centers around my need to be approved of, to be deemed to be good enough – either by other people or by that perfectionistic part of myself.

It is very human to want to be approved of. Perfectionism involves a pervasive, deeply felt, and constant need for approval. Sometimes this desire has been buried and isn’t directly apparent anymore. However, underneath almost all perfectionism is a strong need for people to approve, which translates over time into very high internal standards. Perfectionists believe others are always judging them and can come to treat themselves in the same harsh, judgmental way.

As soon as we crave approval, or long to be good enough, we are teeing ourselves up for depression. We either end up without response we were after which sends us and our mood crashing, or we get the approval we crave but the positive effects don’t last long. In the latter situation, doing well becomes like a drug and our lives become devoted to getting ‘the hit’ of approval from your boss, your family, or your partner.

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Just like a drug, after a while you need to do more and more to feel okay. By seeking approval we dig an unfillable hole that tends to get bigger as time goes on. The link between perfectionism and depression has been recognized clinically, as well as by perfectionists themselves, their friends and their family.

In 2007, a study was completed with the friends and family members of people who had recently killed themselves. Without being asked about it directly, more than half of the people who killed themselves were described as “perfectionists” by their loved ones. The world can simply become too difficult to navigate if you always need things to be perfect.

Here are 4 reasons that perfectionism and depression are linked, and some ways that you can help yourself out of the perfectionist cycle.

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The devil is in the details

Perfectionism usually involves thinking through and doing things in great detail. A perfectionist can become very specific and sometimes fixated on one area of a task or plan. Try to zoom out from time to time. Actively think about the context of what you’re doing, and remind yourself where that task falls in the grand scheme of things. Reflect on whether it is going to be something you think about on your deathbed in order to try to gain some perspective.

You are not what you do

Within perfectionism, mistakes can become misunderstood as signs of a fundamental flaw. Failed tasks become personal failures and criticisms become personal attacks. This is problematic because failure is an inherent part of life and learning. Try not to let failure be a trigger for depression. Try to separate yourself from the things that you do. Begin to see them as external tasks, not an opportunity to show who or how you are as a person.

This is a process that involves re-building part of your identity. As a perfectionist, it’s likely that doing things well has become part of who you are. It may influence all of your daily actions to some extent. Moving away from this mental pattern may leave you feeling lost or empty. Introduce new mental habits, build an interest in other ways to seek fulfillment. Focus on your need to be cared for and find ways to care for yourself.  Where possible, do things to express yourself not to explain yourself. Talk to yourself kindly and turn the volume down on your critical thoughts.

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Flexibility flattens perfectionism

Depression thrives in an all or nothing environment, as does perfectionism. Both are ruled by strict unbending rules and internally perpetuated standards. Perfectionists approach the world with a black and white view, seeing things as right or wrong, good or bad, perfect or useless. Introducing flexibility of thought and approach will dampen perfectionism. It’s very difficult to do this if you naturally see either end of the spectrum and nothing much in-between.

To help yourself with this try to see everything sitting on a spectrum. Everything we do, from tasks to behaviors to what we say, can be put on its own spectrum. One end of each spectrum involves something being done very badly, at the other end it’s done perfectly, and then there is the vast and lovely in-between area. The ‘good enough’ section is the section that, while uncomfortable at first, will help you avoid years of depressive slumps and being held captive by standards that don’t need to be there. Allow yourself to aim for the middle but be flexible with sliding up and down the spectrum from time to time.

Trust yourself

A lack of trust and belief in yourself often underpins perfectionism. Trusting yourself involves feeling that you are innately okay and that you will make sound decisions. It also involves recognizing that if you don’t make a good decision it won’t matter that much. If you don’t trust yourself then procrastination, second guessing, depression, and anxiety are never far behind. Trust that something is right when you feel like it’s finished. Trust that you finished it when you needed to. You don’t need to be told that you’ve done your best because you can trust that you will always do your best. Know that you can’t always get it right, but you can always aim for ‘good enough.’

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Featured photo credit: Volkan Olmez Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Sian Morgan-Crossley

Psychotherapist and Coach

The Problem With Wanting Life To Be Easy How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself) Perfectionism: the perfect route to depression

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Last Updated on July 11, 2019

10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind

10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind

If you have watched movies like Limitless[1] (both the movie and television series) and Lucy,[2] then you have likely come across smart drugs or nootropics. In the movie Limitless, you are introduced to NZT-48 (known as MDT-48 in the book The Dark Fields), which grants heightened intellectual abilities allowing one to pattern-match at lighting speed.

In the movie Lucy, you are introduced to the drug CPH4, which is actually based on a molecule that a pregnant woman produces after six weeks of pregnancy. The director of Lucy, Luc Besson, remarked,[3]

“But it’s totally real, and it’s true that the power of this product for a baby is the power of an atomic bomb. It’s real. It’s totally real. So its not a drug in fact, it’s a natural molecule that pregnant women produce.”

NZT-48 is fictional and CPH4 is a fictional drug based on a real substance. So, are there any real life smart drugs or brain boosters similar to either fictional drug? The answer is no. But powerful cognitive enhancing drugs do exist. And they are Nootropics.

Nootropics

Nootropics was coined by Romanian psychologist Corneliu E. Giurgea in 1972. The etymology of the word is nous or mind and trepein or to bend.[4] According to Smart Drug Smarts, nootropics is an umbrella term for a class of chemicals, some naturally-occurring and some man-made, that give cognitive benefits to the human brain. To be a nootropic, Giurgea found that the substance must meet five specific criteria:[5]

  1. Enhance memory and ability to learn.
  2. Help the brain function under disruptive conditions.
  3. Protect the brain from chemical and physical assaults.
  4. Increase the efficacy of neuronal firing control mechanisms.
  5. Possess few or no side effects and be virtually non-toxic.

Let’s now examine the 10 best brain power supplements that will supercharge your mind and 4 bonus tips (in no particular order – meaning #1 is not better than #2 nor #10). Very few of the brain boosters listed can be purchased in a local brick and mortar store.

For most, you will have to place an order online. However, be extremely cautious and diligently research each prior to ordering.

For a more detailed breakdown of each brain booster in the form of a wiki, I recommend visiting the website BrainTropic[6]. I will provide a summary for each smart drug below. Summaries will be from BrainTropic unless otherwise stated. In addition, visit my website (you can find the link in my bio) as I regularly write and provide advice on nootropics.

*Some of the supplements listed require a prescription and could be harmful. Consult with your doctor before consumption.

1. Qualia Mind

Qualia Mind is an extremely powerful smart drug created by Neurohacker packed with a variety of nootropics. It is a multi-nootropic leading to potential neurochemical and physiological enhancements.

Qualia Mind is specifically designed to lift brain fog, amplify willpower, upgrade energy, heighten creativity, and promote mental clarity. No prescription is required.

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Side effects: headaches, sleep disturbance, muscle tightness, and upset stomach.

Summary
  • Type: Multi-Nootropic (crucial ingredients include: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, DL-Phenylalanine, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Taurine, L-Theanine, Alpha GPC, Citicoline, Anhydrous Caffeine, Huperzine A, and more)
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 7 capsules per day (maximum of 12)
  • Half-life: 4-6 hours

You can learn more about Qualia Mind in Neurohacker.

2. Modafinil

Modafinil is a stimulant to treat narcolepsy and has been shown to enhance our cognitive functions. Sold under the names Vigil, Nuvigil or Provigil, has became one of the most popular cognitive enhancing drugs on the market.

Bio-hacker and founder of Bulletproof Coffee, Dave Asprey, is just one of many advocating the drug. Some think Modafinil inspired the movie Limitless. For more on this discussion, read I Spent a Week on Nuvigil, the Drug From ‘Limitless’ and Modafinil: My Experience with the Real Life Limitless Pill by Joen Rude Falsner. Falsner remarked about Modafinil, it’s “Sort of like a real life pop-up blocker…”

In the US, Modafinil is classified as Schedule IV Controlled Substance and a prescription is required for it. Potential side effects: headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, and trouble sleeping.

Bonus Tip: Top Modafinil researchers have found that Modafinil combined with coffee can create a powerful combination.[7]

Summary
  • Type: Stimulant
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 50-200mg
  • Half-life: 15 hours

3. Adrafinil

Adrafinil is a stimulant that can increase energy and prevent fatigue. It is metabolized and converted into Modafinil. In fact, the effects are similar to Modafinil; however, it is not as strong. No prescription is required for Adrafinil in the US, Canada, or the UK.

Potential side effects: headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, and trouble sleeping.

Summary
  • Type: Stimulant
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 150-600mg
  • Half-life: 1 hour

4. Noopept

According to braintropic.com, Noopept is a powerful synthetic nootropic with cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective properties. It was developed in Russia in the mid-1990s and is used as a prescription treatment for cognitive impairments. Researchers found that, in animal studies, Noopept has been shown to stimulate the expression of two chemicals: Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).[8]

Potential side effects: headaches, restlessness, dizziness, and irritability.

Summary
  • Type: Peptide
  • Good for: Anxiety, Energy, Focus, Learning and Memory
  • Typical Dose: 10-20 mg
  • Half-life: 30-60 minutes

5. Adderall

Adderall is a stimulant used to treat those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall primarily increases the release to two specific neurotransmitters involved with ADHD: dopamine and norepinephrine.

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For an interesting read on what Adderall does to the brain – to include a good discussion of the benefits and side effects of the drug – read What adderall does to your brain by Daniela Hernandez. Similar to Modafinil, some think the movie Limitless was inspired by Adderall.

For more on this discussion, read Limitless: The Brain-Doping Movie We All Know Was Inspired by Adderall and The Drug From Limitless Is Available for Purchase on Your College Campus.

Adderall is considered a Schedule II Controlled Substance and a prescription is required for it. This means anyone caught in possession of it without a prescription could face criminal charges. Potential side effects: irregular heartbeat, paranoia, headaches, restlessness, dizziness, lack of appetite, high risk of dependency, and irritability.

Summary[9]
  • Type: Stimulant
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 5-40 mg (Adderall XR is 5-60 mg)
  • Half-life: 4-6 hours (Adderall XR is 6-8 hours)

6. Oxiracetam

Oxiracetam was developed in the 1970s and is a synthetic derivative of the original nootropic – Piracetam. However, according to braintropic.com, Oxiracetam is more potent than Piracetam. Oxiracetam has been studied for treatment with those suffering from Alzheimer’s or memory.[10] No prescription is required for Oxiracetam.

Potential side effects: no serious side effects – the most commonly reported side effect is headache.

Summary
  • Type: Ampakine and Racetam
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning and Memory
  • Typical Dose: 400-2400 mg
  • Half-life: 8 hours

7. Bulletproof Coffee

Dave Asprey (also an advocate for Modafinil) is the creator of Bulletproof Coffee. Asprey contends that Bulletproof Coffee is clean and tested for toxins.

However, when you first read about Bulletproof Coffee, you hear about the combination of Butter – Oil – Coffee. That can’t be a good combination, right?

Wrong. It is.

Bulletproof Coffee has been found to help with weight loss, boost cognitive functioning, maintain mental clarity, and decrease brain fog. For more on Bulletproof Coffee, read What It’s Like To Drink Bulletproof Coffee Every Morning For Two Weeks by Chris Gayomali. Potential side effects: restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, and rapid heart rate.

Summary[11]
  • Type: Stimulant
  • Good for: Mental Clarity, Decrease Brain Fog, and Weight Loss
  • Typical Dose: Varies by type of coffee (e.g. Coffee Pods or Brew)
  • Half-life: Varies

8. Cellucor C4 Ultimate

Cellucor C4 Ultimate is a powerful pre workout supplement. It provides an instant cognitive boost so that you can not only get the most out of your exercise training sessions, but also maximize your ability to learn (even during exercise).

C4 Ultimate should be consumed 20-30 minutes prior to training. No prescription is required for C4 Ultimate.

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Potential side effects: insomnia, diarrhea, dehydration, headaches, high blood pressure, and tingly or prickly sensations. To counter these side effects, read Pre-Workout Supplements: 6 Side Effects and How To Avoid Them by Matt Weik.

Summary[12]
  • Type: Pre Workout (crucial ingredients include: Vitamin C, Vitamins B6 and B12, Niacin, Citrulline Malate, Caffeine Anhydrous, Taurine, Beta-Alanine, Creatine Nitrate, and N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine)
  • Good for: Energy, Pumps, Endurance, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 1 scoop with water
  • Half-life: Varies

You can get Cellucor C4 Ultimate at Cellucor.

9. Piracetam

Piracetam is the first synthetic smart drug developed and is the compound that inspired the term nootropic. It was invented by the same individual who coined the term nootropic – Dr. Giurgea.

According to Brain Tropic, Piracetam works by improving blood flow in the brain, boosts the production of crucial brain chemicals, and increases synaptic plasticity.[13] It requires a prescription in the UK and Australia and cannot be legally marketed in the US as a dietary supplement.

Potential side effects: no serious side effects – the most commonly reported side effect is headache.

Summary
  • Type: Ampakine and Racetam
  • Good for: Learning and Memory
  • Typical Dose: 1600-4800 mg
  • Half-life: 4-5 hours

10. Qualia Focus

Qualia Focus is another product offered by Neurohacker. It too is a multi-nootropic with powerful cognitive enhancements. While it is not as strong as Qualia Mind, it still upgrades your energy, heightens creativity, and promotes mental clarity at a lower cost than Qualia Mind. No prescription is required.

Side effects: headaches, sleep disturbance, muscle tightness, and upset stomach.

Summary
  • Type: Multi-Nootropic (crucial ingredients include: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, DL-Phenylalanine, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Taurine, L-Theanine, Alpha GPC, Citicoline, Coffeeberry Energy, Ginko Biloba Leaf Extract, Huperzine A, and more)
  • Good for: Focus and Concentration, Memory, and Energy
  • Typical Dose: 5 capsules per day (maximum of 9)
  • Half-life: 4-6 hours

You can learn more about Qualia Focus in Neurohacker.

While the brain boosters listed above are not the smart drugs in Limitless or Lucy, they still provide you phenomenal results. To find out which of the 10 are the best for you, I suggest you do the following:

  1. Research each one diligently
  2. Test them out for yourself
  3. Try the following Bonus Tips along with your brain booster. In doing so, you will discover a pop-up blocker for your brain!

Bonus Tips

1. Take antacids to increase potency

To increase the potency of a brain booster, ingest alkaline substances like antacids such as Tums or Alka-Seltzer. Read A Brief Guide to Non-medical Psychostimulant Use for more information.

You should consult with your doctor as there could be serious side effects.

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2. Take on an empty stomach

You should take your brain booster on an empty stomach as this will further potentiate both the duration and effect of the drug. The exceptions are Qualia Mind and Focus. I recommend taking both with food as this will cause an upset stomach.

However, you should consult with your doctor prior to taking any of the brain boosters listed and to identify the proper way to take each.

3. Adderall alarm clock

There is an interesting definition in the crowd-sourced online dictionary Urban Dictionary:[14]

The Adderall Alarm Clock is defined as setting an alarm for an hour before you have to get up; upon waking, roll over and take your prescription stimulant of choice and go back to sleep. In about an hour, you wake up naturally with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

This actually works. Choose one of your brain boosters and try this out.

However, you should consult with your doctor prior to attempting this as there could be serious side effects.

4. Exercise sparks neurogenesis

Exercise alone will provide similar benefits and could be substituted for any of the brain boosters listed. Exercise plus brain boosters provide even more cognitive enhancing benefits.

One of the most powerful benefits exercise provides is that it sparks the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which brings about neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain.[15]

Dr. John Ratey discusses both neurogenesis and BDNF at length in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Ratey dubbed BDNF the master molecule and refers to it as “Miracle-Gro for the brain”. Linda Gabriel writes about BDNF in BDNF – Miracle-Gro for the Brain, “BDNF binds to receptors in the synapses between neurons, increasing voltage (yes your brain is electric!), and improving signal strength.”

Featured photo credit: Josh Riemer via unsplash.com

Reference

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