Therapy For High Achievers
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Therapy For High Achievers

High achievers find themselves on a never-ending quest for greatness in a society that frequently exalts success and achievement. However, having such high expectations and feelings of pressure might be detrimental to one’s mental health because burnout, stress, and a variety of other mental health problems can result from an unrelenting search for excellence.



This article examines the mental health difficulties that high achievers encounter, the symptoms that point to these difficulties, the value of therapy in resolving these problems, and the decision between choosing an executive coach or a therapist.



Table Of Contents

Mental Health Challenges High Achievers Face

Signs That High Achievers Are Struggling Mentally

Does Therapy Help High Achievers?

Should I Work With An Executive Coach Or A Therapist For My Mental Health?

The Bottom Line





Mental Health Challenges High Achievers Face


High achievers have particular mental health difficulties since they are frequently motivated by a desire for perfection and achievement. The unrelenting pursuit of objectives may result in burnout, tension, and stress (Jeremiah & Butson, 2022). Luthar et al. reported in their study published in the journal American Psychologist that teenagers who attended high-achieving high schools had three to seven times greater incidence of clinical sadness and anxiety symptoms than their peers nationally (Luthar et al., 2020) because there is immense strain involved in achieving excellence.


According to a study, over 300 million individuals worldwide suffer from depression (Chodavadia et al., 2023), and high achievers are not exempt from this common mental health problem. High achievers frequently exhibit perfectionism, which can be a double-edged sword. Although it fosters ambition, it also establishes unattainable expectations, which breeds relentless self-criticism and failure-related fear. The pressure to uphold a perfect appearance can exacerbate impostor syndrome, a condition in which people constantly fear being exposed as frauds and doubt their own successes (Clance & Imes, 1978).





Signs That High Achievers Are Struggling Mentally


Given their propensity to hide their feelings, high achievers can be difficult to diagnose with mental health issues. For early intervention and assistance, it is critical to identify the early warning signs of mental health issues in high achievers. High achievers may show subtle signs that something is wrong underneath the surface, even in spite of their outward success. Common indications include the following:


Excessive Perfectionism: A continual drive for perfection in all facets of their lives may arise from high achievers setting unattainable goals for themselves (Luthar & Kumar, 2018).


Chronic Fatigue: The relentless drive for achievement frequently leads to extended workdays and a disregard for self-care, which compromises general well-being and causes chronic exhaustion.


Isolation: In an attempt to stay focused on their objectives, high achievers may exclude friends and family, unintentionally cutting off important support networks.


Impaired Sleep Patterns: Anxiety and stress can interfere with sleep cycles, reducing the quantity and quality of sleep and aggravating mental health problems.


Increased Irritability: An increased level of irritation and impatience due to pressure to perform well can strain relationships in every area of life (Haspolat & Yalçın, 2023).



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Does Therapy Help High Achievers?


In recent years, the subject of whether therapy is helpful for high achievers has become more widely discussed. The myth that therapy is exclusively for people with serious mental health problems is dispelling as more and more accomplished people discover the benefits of getting help from a professional.


A secure environment to explore ideas, emotions, and behavior is what therapy offers to high achievers. It enables people to create coping strategies and understand the underlying causes of their problems. An individual’s general mental health significantly improved after participating in treatment, according to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Gaining perspective on one’s accomplishments and struggles is one of the main advantages of therapy for high achievers.


Therapists can support individuals in achieving a better work-life balance and a healthier attitude by assisting them in striking the right balance between ambition and mental health. High achievers can also voice their concerns in therapy because it offers a private, accepting environment free from judgment. In addition to encouraging self-compassion and resilience, it provides skills and tactics for overcoming the obstacles associated with success.


Additionally, therapy gives high achievers the necessary techniques to control their perfectionism, anxiety, and stress. Strategies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) have been very useful in assisting people in reframing unfavorable thought patterns and creating more positive strategies for achievement (Nakao et al., 2021).






Should I Work With An Executive Coach Or A Therapist For My Mental Health?


Many high achievers struggle to decide between seeing a therapist or an executive coach. The decision is more complex even though both experts have unique jobs and sometimes their areas of expertise overlap.


Executive Coach

  • Primarily concerned with performance improvement and professional development.
  • Assists top performers in developing their leadership qualities, making better decisions, and setting and achieving professional goals.
  • Develops techniques to maximize productivity at work according to individual needs.
  • Usually focused on measurable outcomes and consequences.




  • Emphasizes emotional stability and mental health.
  • Examines difficulties in personal as well as professional life, addressing the root causes of mental health problems.
  • Offers a secure environment for emotional expression and self-reflection.
  • Includes therapeutic methods for handling anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues.
  • Executive coaches and therapists play different responsibilities, but they don’t have to be chosen in tandem. A lot of high achievers find that combining the two methods helps them deal with the complex problems they face. While therapists can offer vital support for mental and emotional well-being, executive coaches can aid in professional development.





The Bottom Line


In their quest of achievement, high achievers face a distinct set of difficulties, and maintaining long-term success requires putting mental health first. Being aware of the warning signs of mental health issues and getting the right help—whether from executive coaching or therapy—is a proactive step in preserving a positive work-life balance.


Empirical data highlights the frequency of mental health issues among high achievers, underscoring the necessity of easily available and efficient support networks. Ultimately, the path to success involves not just achieving objectives but also preserving one’s mental health along the way. High achievers can realize their full potential and have happy, successful lives by seeking professional help and striking the correct balance between professional growth and emotional support.











Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 29). Mental Health Treatment Among Adults: United States, 2019.


Chodavadia, P., Teo, I., Poremski, D., Fung, D. S. S., & Finkelstein, E. A. (2023). Prevalence and economic burden of depression and anxiety symptoms among Singaporean adults: Results from a 2022 web panel. BMC Psychiatry, 23, 104.


Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241–247.


Haspolat, N., & Yalçın, İ. (2023). Psychological symptoms in high achieving students: The multiple mediating effects of parental achievement pressure, perfectionism, and academic expectation stress. Psychology in the Schools, 60, 4721–4739.


Jeremiah, F., & Butson, R. (2022). Exploring the paradox of mental illness amongst some high achievers. Minerva Psychiatry, 63.


Luthar, S. S., & Kumar, N. L. (2018). Youth in High-Achieving Schools: Challenges to Mental Health and Directions for Evidence-Based Interventions. In A. W. Leschied, D. H. Saklofske, & G. L. Flett (Eds.), Handbook of School-Based Mental Health Promotion: An Evidence-Informed Framework for Implementation (pp. 441–458). Springer International Publishing.


Luthar, S. S., Kumar, N. L., & Zillmer, N. (2020). High-achieving schools connote risks for adolescents: Problems documented, processes implicated, and directions for interventions. American Psychologist, 75(7), 983–995.


Nakao, M., Shirotsuki, K., & Sugaya, N. (2021). Cognitive–behavioral therapy for management of mental health and stress-related disorders: Recent advances in techniques and technologies. BioPsychoSocial Medicine, 15, 16.











Written By: Dr. Wasif MD

Edited by: Madison Vargas, BS

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, LMFT

Published : 03/25/2024


Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals. However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

Written and reviewed by

Madison Vargas

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