Photo: Mohamed Omar

Ryerson prof pens book on perfectionism

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By Jake Kivanc

The word ‘anxiety’ is mentioned frequently nowadays, but what may be just a mere term to many is an issue one professor is dedicated to understanding.

Born in 1964, Dr. Martin Antony, professor at and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Ryerson, has been working in the field of anxiety research for over two decades, publishing 29 books over the course of his career.

Dr. Antony’s research into anxiety has covered everything from depression to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), with a number of his published works focusing on self-help and analysis of the conditions.

Describing his initial entrance into psychology as a student, Dr. Antony said he was taking a myriad of scientific courses before finding that the human mind piqued his curiosity.

“I think most people, or a lot of people, are inherently interested in psychology,” he said. “It’s interesting learning how people behave and why they behave the way they do.”

One of Dr. Antony’s earliest influences as a student was Dr. Richard Swinson, a psychiatrist from Hamilton who, after Antony obtained his undergraduate degree, took him on as a research assistant between 1987-1988. Antony added that the work the two did together “inspired” him to pursue further research into anxiety-related issues.

Graduating with a PhD in clinical psychology from the University at Albany in 1994, Dr. Antony has served at number of psychology institutions since, such as the St. Joseph’s Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic in Hamilton, where he acts as the current Director of Research.

Dr. Antony began teaching at Ryerson nearly a decade ago and as acting chair of the department, currently instructs a number of psychology courses at the graduate-level.

What’s been causing the most buzz as of recently is Dr. Antony’s work on perfectionism, a topic which he covered at a TEDxRyerson talk in 2010 titled after his book “When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough”.

Perfectionism, often confused with OCD, is term used to describe the mental process of an individual who is constantly striving for perfect or near-perfect results in any given scenario, with little to no tolerance for anything less than.

Dr. Antony noted that, while some level of perfectionism can be beneficial, perfectionist habits that interfere with one’s daily life have been linked with mental disorders such as depression, social anxiety and eating disorders.

“Learning from societal influences can affect perfectionism,” he said. “Pressure to always look attractive, always be in good physical shape, always be successful, always be good at work. Those kind of pressures can contribute to perfectionism.”

Dr. Antony’s newest book on the matter, Cognitive Behavioural Treatment of Perfectionism, is

described as an “evidence-based framework” for therapists treating patients with perfectionistic complexes, according to its online page.

When asked about how perfectionism can develop in children, Dr. Antony said that early conditioning can play a big role.

“If someone get lots of praise when they put hours and hours into a task, that can be reinforcing or rewarding. They may want to do it more,” he said. “If they’re in a very critical environment and they find that their parents and other people are very critical, that may [also] contribute.”

Dr. Antony will be continuing his research into anxiety and perfectionism into the future, and is currently authoring two other books on similar topics.

 

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