Stress situation reveals an association between perfectionism and drive for thinness

Int J Eat Disord. 2003 Sep;34(2):220-6. doi: 10.1002/eat.10191.


Objective: Several theorists have hypothesized that stress situations may trigger abnormal eating and even eating disorders in individuals with a perfectionistic personality. The purpose of this study was to assess whether a stress situation would reveal an association between perfectionism and measures of eating disorders among female high school students.

Methods: A sample of 42 female high school students completed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale and the Eating Disorder Inventory three times: on an average school day, on the day of an examination, and on the day they received the evaluation of the examination. Linear regression analysis was calculated to verify whether the dimensions of perfectionism were associated with the measures of eating disorders.

Results: Body Dissatisfaction was associated with perfectionism on all the three occasions, whereas Drive for Thinness was associated with perfectionism only on the day the students received the results of the examination.

Discussion: The results suggest that among nonclinical female individuals, stress may make significant a previously absent association between perfectionism and an actual desire or plan to lose weight. Such a finding suggests that stress may stimulate behaviors related to eating disorders in individuals with a perfectionistic personality.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Body Image*
  • Defense Mechanisms*
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology
  • Drive*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Obsessive Behavior / psychology*
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Efficacy
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Thinness / psychology*