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Perfectionism Linked to Eating Disorders

November 19th, 2005

A February 2003 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that perfectionism appears to increase the risk of developing eating disorders, but not other psychiatric problems, such as depression, alcoholism, anxiety disorder, or phobias. Negative reactions to mistakes and the tendency to view mistakes as personal failures were the perfectionist traits most significantly associated with anorexia and bulimia among the women.

“Until recently, it hasn’t been clear whether the link between perfectionism and eating disorders is unique, or if perfectionism is also associated with the development of other psychiatric problems, such as anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse,” says researcher Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University, in a news release

“Most patients and their patients say that perfectionism goes back to before they developed an eating disorder,” says Bulik. “Young girls who are highly perfectionistic and punish themselves unduly for perceived failures can be helped to learn how to give themselves a break and set more realistic goals. This could also help them develop more realistic body image standards as well and perhaps prevent them for developing such extreme weight-loss behaviors.”


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