"Self-critical perfectionism in the transition to university: Identifying links to depression and anxiety and designing a targeted intervention"
The transition to university is a stressful time for new students; many develop mental health problems that can interfere with their schoolwork, social life and general functioning. The study's first goal is to determine whether self-critical perfectionism represents a risk factor for experiencing increased depression and/or anxiety in the first year of university. Incoming undergraduate students will complete questionnaires reporting on their levels of perfectionism, depression, anxiety and stress at three points: before the start of the semester (July-August); halfway through the semester (in mid-October); and at the end of the semester (mid-December). This data will be used to identify a cut-off score for self-critical perfectionism above which a person is at higher risk of developing depression or anxiety; and to determine the level at which self-critical perfectionism becomes a real clinical concern. The study's second goal is to design and test an intervention for people with high levels of self-critical perfectionism. Two different components of an intervention will be tested. First, cultivating self-compassion, which is an attitude of kindness and sensitivity towards one’s distress and shortcomings. This may be especially effective in reducing shame and guilt, which are the hallmarks of self-critical thinking. A second intervention will teach students how to cope with stress.