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Perfectionism and eating disorders: A complex issue

Two aspects of perfectionism are involved in body dissatisfaction and the development of eating disorders, according to a study of over a thousand women published this week in BioMed Central's open access journal, Journal of Eating Disorders.

Adaptive perfectionism is high standards driving a person towards achieving a goal body image, and maladaptive perfectionism is concerned with mistakes and other people's opinions.

The finding indicates that both are involved in heightened concerns about body image, which in turn places people at risk of developing an eating disorder.

Over a thousand women representing a cross section of the population (aged 28-40) were involved in this study. They ranged from underweight to morbidly obese, with a BMI of 14 to 64, and overall, the further these women were away from a healthy BMI, the bigger the difference between their current and ideal body images.

While perfectionism is recognised as an important factor in eating disorders, the exact role of perfectionism in perceived body image has been difficult to pin down. Tracey Wade and Marika Tiggemann, from Flinders University, found that women who desired the lowest BMI and the smallest body size tended to be more concerned about making mistakes, and more worried about organisation and higher self doubt than everyone else.

Prof Tracey Wade explained, "While some perfectionism is normal and necessary there becomes a point at which it becomes and unhelpful and vicious cycle. Knowing that perfectionism of any sort is a risk factor for eating disorders suggests we should tackle 'all or nothing' attitudes with clients, as well as helping them to become less invested in defining their self worth in terms of their ability to achieve high standards."

Open access publisher BioMed Central is proud to announce the launch of the Journal of Eating Disorders. This journal launch marks a significant development in this area of research; as it is the first open access journal of its kind. Journal of Eating Disorders is co-edited by Prof Phillipa Hay, University of Western Sydney and Prof Stephen Touyz, University of Sydney.

Media contact

Dr Hilary Glover
Scientific Press Officer, BioMed Central
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3192 2370
Mob: +44 (0) 778 698 1967

1. The role of perfectionism in body dissatisfaction Tracey D Wade, Marika Tiggemann1 Journal of Eating Disorders (in press)

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request on the day of publication.

2. Journal of Eating Disorders is an open access, peer-reviewed journal with a global reach of leading research in the science and clinical practice of eating disorders. @JEatDisord

3. BioMed Central ( is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector. @BioMedCentral

Hilary Glover | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: BMI BioMed Eating Disorder Perfectionism STM body image disorders eating disorders

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