How to Tell if You're a 'Performance Addict'

Aug. 7, 2005 — -- With the emphasis on wealth and beauty in today's society, it's not surprising that many demand too much of themselves.

For some people, this "do it all" drive is actually addictive -- a phenomenon that's known as "performance addiction." Those who suffer from it believe that perfecting appearance and achieving status will secure the love and respect of others.

Performance addicts are different than other overachievers, such as perfectionists and Type A personalities, according to Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli, clinical psychologist and author of "Performance Addiction: The Dangerous New Syndrome and How to Stop It From Ruining Your Life."

"You can be a Type A personality and have a balanced life," he said. "Performance addicts have an irrational belief system. They believe the only way to be loved or really accepted is to perform better. They are not focused on what they are doing, like perfectionists are. They are focused on the outcome of their actions.

"They are never in the present," he added. "They are always thinking of their to-do lists. Performance addicts turn to activity like an alcoholic turns to a drink. Unless they're busy, they don't feel worthy."

According to Ciaramicoli, performance addicts have trouble with …


slowing down.


unstructured time.

self-care, like exercise regimens and diet.

If you suffer from performance addiction, Ciaramicoli offers the following advice:

Learn how to listen. Develop your capacity for empathy.

Slow yourself down. Try always to be in the moment.

Make self-care a priority. Regularly take the time to exercise and eat a nutritious meal.

Give your children your love, not your anxiety. Children who have parents with performance addiction may develop it, too.

Stop criticizing the people around you. Performance addicts are always looking for ways to improve themselves, their spouse, and their family. Stop doing that and start creating intimacy through uncritical affection.

Develop realistic attitudes about your appearance and your financial status. Reign in your lofty expectations and create goals that can be reached.

Allow yourself to make mistakes without feeling that you are a mistake. Tell yourself that failure to drive a certain car or live in a certain house does not mean you are a failure.

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