Category: Adult Anxiety
High levels of perfectionism are strongly related to emotional distress disorders. Recent research has begun to focus specifically on pathological worry, a defining feature of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Perfectionism has been identified as a predictor of worry in both non-clinical and clinical samples (e.g., Handley et al., 2014). Despite increased attention to perfectionism and worry, researchers have yet to examine the mechanisms underlying the relation between perfectionism and worry. Interpersonal problems may serve as a link explaining this connection. Interpersonal dysfunction is conceptualized as a transdiagnostic feature across mood and anxiety pathology, with problems in unassertiveness and overnurturance linked with worry and distress regarding social relationships (e.g, Erickson et al., 2016; Viana et al., 2013). Perfectionism is also associated with greater interpersonal dysfunction, specifically problems with hostility, dominance, social avoidance, vindictiveness, submissiveness and overnurturance (e.g., Hill et al., 1997; Slaney et al., 2006; Rice et al., 2015; Nepon et al., 2011). Given these findings, the present study examined whether interpersonal dysfunction, as measured by the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems Short Circumplex form, explained the relation between perfectionism, as captured by the Perfectionistic Self-Presentation Inventory, and worry, as assessed by the Penn State Worry Questionnaire-5, in a large community sample of adults (N = 419; M age = 39.9, SD = 12.9; 67.1% female). The four main interpersonal dysfunction subscales (i.e., cold, overly nurturant, nonassertive, domineering) were examined in a structural equation modeling framework. Model fit was adequate for the direct and indirect structural models. Perfectionism was directly related to Worry before the interpersonal dimensions were included in the model (β= 0.60, p < .001). Perfectionism was directly related to Worry even after accounting for interpersonal dysfunction (β = 0.33, p < .001). Of the four interpersonal problem dimensions, only Overnurturance explained significant amounts of the relation between Perfectionism and Worry (β = 0.24, 95% CI [.13, .36]). Results suggest that problems with excessive interpersonal warmth may account for the relation between perfectionism and worry. Future research should develop and tailor interventions to directly target the overnurturance dimension interpersonal problems for worry in individuals exhibiting high levels of perfectionism.