Low perception of control as a cognitive factor of eating disorders. Its independent effects on measures of eating disorders and its interactive effects with perfectionism and self-esteem

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2008 Dec;39(4):467-88. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2007.11.005. Epub 2008 Jan 18.


Objective: There is a large body of research about perfectionism and low self-esteem in eating disorders (ED). However, little is known about the influence in ED of a distorted cognition in the domain of control: the perception of low control. The present study examined the main and interactive effects of concern over mistakes (an important dimension of perfectionism), self-esteem, and perception of control on drive for thinness, bulimia, and body dissatisfaction.

Method: Forty individuals with ED and 55 controls completed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, the Anxiety Control Questionnaire, the Rosenberg self-esteem scale, and the three symptomatic scales of the Eating Disorder Inventory, which are drive for thinness, bulimia and body dissatisfaction. Multiple linear regression was used to test the hypothesis that perception of low control has a significant effect on the symptomatic scales of the EDI.

Results: The ED group had significantly lower perception of control and self-esteem and higher concern over mistakes, drive for thinness, bulimia, and body dissatisfaction than the control group. Analysis of interactive effects suggested that a combination of a low perception of control and a low self-esteem seems to moderate the effects of concern over mistakes on drive for thinness, bulimia, and body dissatisfaction.

Discussion: ED are associated with a tendency to worry about mistakes, a low sense of self-esteem, and a low perception of control over internal feelings and external events. Perception of control and self-esteem seems to moderate the predictive power of concern mistakes on symptoms of ED. The results suggest that a low perception of control is an important cognitive factor in ED.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Body Image
  • Bulimia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Bulimia Nervosa / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Drive
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Perception*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Self Concept*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires