Performance addiction: the belief that perfecting appearance and achieving status will secure the love and respect of others. Psychologist Arthur P. Ciaramicoli
Performance Addiction: The Dangerous New Syndrome and How to Stop It from Ruining Your Life (2004), although not brand new, does speak to a common issue in today’s society.
He calls performance addiction “an irrational belief system learned from early familial experiences and reinforced by our material and appearance driven society…These individuals are what I call scoreboard watchers. They are constantly evaluating how well they sound, look and appear.”
According to Ciaramicoli, performance addicts are actually different from other types of overachievers, though. He has explained that someone with Type A personality, for example, can still have balance; and someone who’s a perfectionist focuses more on what he or she is doing than on a specific type of outcome (as is desired by a performance addict).
It’s all about to-do lists and busyness for the performance addict. Also, difficulty with the following: listening, slowing down, sleeping, having unstructured time, and using healthy self-care, e.g., diet and exercise.
Naturally, then, Ciaramicoli’s advice emphasizes therapeutic work to change these deficits. Some things he says to address:
- Learn how to listen. Develop your capacity for empathy.
- Slow yourself down. Try always to be in the moment.
- Make self-care a priority. Regularly take the time to exercise and eat a nutritious meal.
- Give your children your love, not your anxiety. Children who have parents with performance addiction may develop it, too.
- Stop criticizing the people around you. Performance addicts are always looking for ways to improve themselves, their spouse, and their family. Stop doing that and start creating intimacy through uncritical affection.
- Develop realistic attitudes about your appearance and your financial status. Reign in your lofty expectations and create goals that can be reached.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes without feeling that you are a mistake. Tell yourself that failure to drive a certain car or live in a certain house does not mean you are a failure.
A more recent follow-up to Performance Addiction is Ciaramicoli’s The Curse of the Capable: The Hidden Challenges to a Balanced, Healthy, High-Achieving Life, co-authored by John Allen Mollenhauer. It further develops his ideas and “describes how a biased view of yourself can lead to a fragile sense of self, addictive thinking and behavior, and a seemingly mysterious downward spiral that the majority of people can’t see or untangle.”