Perfectionism Drives Eating Disorders

Perfectionism Drives Eating Disorders

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Perfectionism can be a healthy personality trait – one that drives personal ambition, a desire for excellence and for success. But perfectionism at its extreme is destructive. It can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder and to feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and depression. It is a maladaptive way of coping with negative feelings and stress. It can prevent a person from feeling good about personal accomplishments or value, leading to low self-esteem, fear and suicidal ideation.

Perfectionism drives eating disorders and can be triggered by pressure from the media for the perfect body, for youthfulness and physical strength. The belief that the perfect figure brings happiness, social status and success develops to a point of compulsion. Perfectionism in eating disorders can also be triggered by family and social belief systems, which stress that success is seen in high-achievement, academic excellence and advancement in certain careers.

In addition, this type of perfectionism spikes levels of high anxiety cause an internal feeling of feeling out of control. This leaves the individual reaching for an external control to mediate that feeling – that reach is food. The reach can bee food in food out. Binge, restrict or binge/purge. It is an attempt to use the external control to calm the feeling of being out of control internally with the anxiety that has been driven by the perfectionism. This processes alone is a key component in most eating disorders.

Within this process the client cuts themselves off from their feelings and is a “numb” state. They basically live in their head, not their heart. Their negative thinking patterns run high and shame them for their eating disorder. Self-esteem, self worth, ambition, interests become depleted.

With treatment, eating disorders sufferers and their loved ones learn to value themselves apart from social and media standards. They learn new, healthy views of success, balance in nutrition and exercise, and positive coping mechanisms that encourage personal, academic and career growth.