Picture this: you’re in college and you have to write a 23 page essay on Gericault’s 19th century masterpiece, The Raft of the Medusa for your advanced art history class. You’re a go-getter and super driven, so naturally you aspire to create a well researched paper detailing the finer points of this icon of romanticism.
And, let’s be honest, you also want to get an A on this paper.
You’ve spent countless hours researching and now you’re ready to put it all together. Books and notes by your side, you sit down to bang it all out on your computer.
Except your fingers won’t move. In fact, you’re suddenly frozen and you haven’t even started yet.
Then you begin to ruminate because “I’ve got all these other things to get done too”, even though your paper isn’t due for another week. At this point you get distracted thinking about all these other things. Next, panic and anxiety come to visit and suddenly the room is much smaller and it feels as though the temperature increased 10 degrees. Then you think to yourself “you’re no Proust, but damn it get something done already.”
So, in a frenzy, you bang out a few paragraphs. After you’ve read and reread your two paragraphs 25 times, you delete one because it wasn’t intelligent, clever or unique enough. At this point, your throat has closed up a bit and you begin to worry that you may not get that A after all. Then it spirals into fear over what others will think of you, and that maybe you don’t even have what it takes to get your degree.
This was me in college and is but one facet of perfectionism. Something I know many of you can relate to.
Much has been written about this topic and the many ways to overcome it with this and that technique. If you’ve ever tried to rewire your brain, recite affirmations, or clear your soul, you know what I mean. The Paul Graham’s of the world that think perfectionism is an excuse for procrastination clearly don’t know anything about biochemistry.
And please don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that some of these techniques aren’t helpful, but personal experience has shown me that these types of approaches do little to help the situation until the underlying imbalance is corrected.
That’s because perfectionism, which is really a form of OCD, is a result of a methylation imbalance, due to elevated histamine.
This was such a revelation for me and explained my life long battles with depression, food addiction, anxiety, amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), and massive inner turmoil.
Whenever I see perfectionism, I know there is underlying inflammation. And this makes sense because histamine plays a major role in the body’s inflammatory response mechanisms that are directly connected to methylation cycles.
So what’s a girl or guy to do?
- Get properly tested. Perfectionism and OCD are directly connected to undermethylation, a biotype determined by a high whole blood histamine level or SAM/SAH profile, and although they can be connected, undermethylation is not the same as mast cell degranulation/histamine intolerance because we have different systems for controlling histamine. I break all of this down for you here. Note: Overmethylators struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), which is not the same as OCD.
- Steer clear of folic acid and high folate foods. Folate is a powerful demethylating agent. In other words, it strips away what we already don’t have. Another way to put this is that we don’t do well on plant-based diets because they are high in folate and copper. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. You can learn more about folate here.
- Add more protein. The amino acids we get from meat are powerful in their ability to generate methyl donors such as methionine that are essential to proper methylation synthesis. Protein is also high in zinc and vitamin B6, both of which are essential for a healthy functioning brain. Keep in mind that plant-based amino acids have no affect on methylation cycles.
- Eat regularly. Blood sugar dysregulation is very common when methylation is imbalanced. Eating protein-rich foods regularly not only supports methylation pathways, but also balances mood, appetite, sleep, and thought patterns.
Do you struggle with perfectionism? If so, let me know how you’re doing in the comments below. It is through sharing your story that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.