The study has been published in Konsultativnaya Psikhlogiya and Psikhoterapiya.
A surge of anxiety disorders and clinical depressions has been recorded among students in recent years, something that specialists link to both growing rivalry (between young people in various spheres of life) and heightened expectations characterizing children growing up in a modern era.
Perfectionism, an excessive desire to be perfect, is among the widely discussed factors. Along with envy, rivalry and depression, it has been chosen as a key indicator in the MSUPE research. "In general, positively higher indices of depression have been revealed by a group of ‘pronounced perfectionists.' What I mean here is that this trait precedes symptoms of emotional malaise in young people," Prof. Marina Sorokova of the Applied Mathematics Department, MSUPE School of Information Technologies, comments.
According to Ms. Sorokova, envy and "social comparison" indices are statistically reliable mediating factors of a connection between perfectionism and depression.
The modern theory of envy states that a person can cope with pain caused by unfavorable social comparisons in two ways — constructive and destructive.
The former implies that one is clearly conscious of being envious and is willing to fall back on inner resources for further development. In the latter case, one is focused on his/her inferiority and activates defensive mechanisms (such as flattery or, conversely, animosity).
"According to our data, pronounced perfectionists choose the latter option. It is uncharacteristic of them to compare judgments with other people's opinions. Neither do they have positive competitive attitudes that facilitate the true development of the personality," said Prof. Natalya Garanyan of the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy and MSUPE student Alexandra Klykova, who co-authored the article.
They claim that to compensate themselves for the unfavorable effects of social comparisons and envy, student perfectionists would resort to hyper-rivalry and use unfavorable contrasting comparison strategies more often than their peers.
The MSUPE data confirm the paradoxical nature of perfectionism: Though promoted in search of respect and love of other people, this trait can easily become an obstacle to relations and doom an individual to loneliness.