I Perform, Therefore I Am

When humankind examines its heart and painfully recognizes the deep hole inside of it, its natural reaction is to fill that void with something. But when that something injects a potent supply of a quickly fading euphoric sense of completeness that leaves the heart emptier than before, the risk of addiction is dangerously heightened.

While many other sources suggest that their strict need for control usually cancels out issues of addiction, people with OCPD are in fact more likely to become addicted to performance.

As a result of their hypersensitivity, people with OCPD can experience immense pain from others’ criticism, disapproval, rejection, and betrayal. On the other hand, when they are rewarded with positive affirmation, usually from their exceptional performance, people with OCPD experience a “high” that makes them feel so alive and complete. Unfortunately, that “high” does not last very long.

The addiction to performance is just as destructive as any other addiction. It destroys the addicted victim’s health, relationships, and ability to function self-sufficiently without the aid of his or her “drug.” But unlike most other addictions that are frowned upon by society, the world encourages the outcomes of performance addiction, making it a much deadlier addiction that often gets overlooked. The most problematic withdrawal symptom of performance addiction is depression.


  • You are a person of excellence
  • You are a hard worker
  • You are courageous – You have the courage to put yourself out there at the risk of being judged by the world.


  • You have such a strong sense of identity – What you do does not define you.
  • You are the master of your life – There is nothing bigger than you that can control you.


Your performance addiction is the enemy, not your friends and family. Do not antagonize them for getting in between you and your destructive drug.

As much as you can, tell your OCPD friend how great of a person he or she is for who they are. In order to avoid being ignored for sounding so cliché, tell your friend specific qualities that make him or her so great. Show more excitement for the condition of your friend’s character and heart than his or her exceptional performance. Whatever you do, do not limit your positive affirmation only to his or her exceptional performance – it would actually be more helpful to your friend for you to be silent. If your OCPD friend appears to be depressed because of performance addiction withdrawal, help him or her get through it by assuring him or her that it is ok, by telling your friend that he or she is a great person regardless of his or her performance, and by inviting your friend to participate in fun activities together that have little to do with performance. Do not pressure your OCPD friend to get a job if he or she happens to be depressed while not working – that is like pressuring him or her to go back to his or her drug.

As with any other addiction, you must cut it out of your life – not necessarily cold turkey as your extreme nature would probably have you attempt to do. Identify the areas in your life where you are trying to perform well in and give yourself more grace. Do not allow your performance to define who you are. Do not believe that you are a lesser person at times that you perform poorly. Likewise, do not believe that you are a better person at times that you perform well. Tell yourself that you are an amazing person regardless of your performance. If you are experiencing depression as a result of performance addiction withdrawal, understand that it is normal and it will pass. In this difficult time of withdrawal, learn to accept and love yourself. As tempting as it may be, try not fall back on performance. Instead, participate in activities that have little to do with performance, evaluation, etc. If you have been laid off from work or have nothing to do, see these as your opportunities to break free from your performance addiction.

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One thought on “I Perform, Therefore I Am

  1. I would also suggest that part of weaning oneself from this would be recognizing that excellence and perfection are NOT the same thing. A “perfect” performance in anything – a gymnastics routine, an SAT test, cutting someone’s hair – is exciting because it is so rare. It is HUMAN to not be great all the time – and also, not to be great at EVERYTHING. Michael Phelps is an amazing swimmer, but I haven’t heard he’s also an excellent chef and saxophone player (he might well be, I don’t know).

    I see a lot of moms drive themselves a bit crazy trying to be perfect – to always have their child dressed well on a shoestring budget while keeping an immaculate house and bringing cupcakes that are works of art to every bake sale. Recognize that the point of being a parent is to help your child feel safe, secure and loved, not to blow away the neighbors with your performance as SuperMom or SuperDad.

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