Perfectionism and Anorexia - Are They Related?

Written by: Maheen Asif – M.Sc (Clinical Psychology)
Last updated date : January 25, 2023

Do you think you look ugly when you gain weight? Do you worry that people think you’re weak if you gain weight? Do you go for a long time without eating? Do things that are shabby bother you? Do you get anxious and work out for hours if you eat a few extra calories? You must want to get an A in your studies, right? if yes, you like your life to always be in “perfect shape.” Such perfectionism cause anorexia. When you eat a little more, you worry and start counting calories. That makes perfectionism and anorexia related!


Chapter 1:

So What Is Perfectionism?

A perfectionist is someone who sets goals, usually high ones, and can’t even handle the thought of not reaching them. You can see this need in everything the person does. They can’t accept things that aren’t good enough. Also, they are hard on both themselves and others. They have a lot of rules and are very hard on themselves. They are too critical and want to be in charge of everything.

People with this kind of perfectionism struggle in terms of food and body weight. ever wonder why perfectionism and anorexia are related?

Society tells us that there are good and bad foods. They also say the right and wrong ways to eat. But food is just food; it has no moral significance. If I let my body tell me what to eat and don’t try to be perfect, I will eat in a healthy way. And my body will reach its ideal weight, which is not the same as a perfect number in a magazine.

In the real world, it’s normal to eat too much sometimes. And when we eat too much, we don’t have to “make up for it” by starving ourselves, throwing up, or working out too much. Our bodies are beautiful works of art that can adjust to normal changes in what we eat without us having to do anything.

Chapter 2:

Can Perfectionism Cause Anorexia?

Do you think that Perfectionism causes anorexia? Yes! Very much so! Many people with anorexia would say that they are perfectionists. Many anorexics think it’s hard to be imperfect every day. Perfectionism and anorexia go hand in hand because they both come from a need to be in charge. Letting yourself be imperfect means giving up some of that control.

Anorexic people feel anxious when they think they don’t have control, aren’t going in the right direction, or won’t reach their goal. They keep track of how much food they eat because it makes them feel in charge and perfect. The problem is that life rarely goes as planned, so the anorexia gets worse as the person becomes dependent on it to feel better.

There is nothing wrong with setting high goals for oneself as long as the person can handle working hard to reach those goals and sometimes not being able to reach them at all. Also, people with anorexia care more about being perfect, getting approval from others, and being in charge than getting things done and making progress.

They like not having to worry much more than they like being successful. And finally, people with anorexia tend to set goals that leave them with no other choices. This makes them very anxious because they can either succeed or do nothing.

Chapter 3:

Coping With Anorexia Caused by Perfectionism

As we all know that perfectionism cause anorexia! So, when treating anorexia, we should also pay attention to how much the person wants to be “perfect”. In many people with anorexia disorder, treating “perfectionism” also helps them recover from their eating disorder.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
When people with anorexia set a goal, they believe it to be true, and if they don’t reach it, they think it’s because they’re not good enough, lazy, smart, or capable. They have trouble dealing with their mistakes and are very hard on themselves. Anorexics have rigid ideas about themselves and their lives, which makes them think that they have to be perfect. Anorexic people live by rules like “if-then,” “should,” and “have-to.” For example, “I have to succeed,” “If I don’t succeed, then I’m not a good person,” or “I should get an A on my test.” If they don’t succeed, they think it’s because they’re not good enough. Getting help for anorexia is learning to let go of these fixed ideas and beliefs and stop only accepting perfection. It will help you figure out your fixed ideas and beliefs. Once you know who some of them are, you can start to ask them questions. The goal is to find out if your thoughts are so fixed that they are unrealistic or mean to you, and if they are, to change them to be more realistic. To change your mind, you’ll need to think about what else you could do. You can deal with your need to be a perfectionist if you can find your rigid assumptions, question them, and try to rephrase them as preferences instead of rules, laws, or scientific facts. This is a good step towards getting better from anorexia. Remember that you will always have to change how you think, but it will get easier the more you do it.

Nutrition Counselling

Nutrition counseling is a way to help treat anorexia. It consists of:

  • Teaching how to eat and weigh healthily.
  • Make patients learn how to get back to normal eating habits.
  • Teaching people how important it is to eat well and have a balanced diet.
  • Getting back to a healthy way of thinking about food and eating.

Learn To Love Yourself!

In today’s world, social media has led to some unrealistic ideas of beauty. “Perfect standards” are what everyone is trying to reach. Such perfectionism causes anorexia and other eating disorder.

Know and tell yourself what you do well. In a culture where self-improvement is so important, it can be hard to see that you already have great qualities. Make a list of the things about yourself that you like. When you’re feeling down, come back to it to remind yourself that you’re pretty great. Ask a friend or loved one if you can’t think of anything. They may notice things about you that you don’t.

Exposure Therapy

Trying too hard to be perfect is the same as being phobic of making mistakes. People who try to be perfect are afraid of making mistakes.

The best way to treat this condition is to put the person in situations where they are likely to do poorly over and over again. Examples of exposure activities could include:

  • Eating a small extra piece of cake
  • Being in a messy room for a long time
  • Cut down on the time of exercise

People learn that it’s safe to lower their standards over time and that nothing terrible will happen when they do. The goal is to make standards that are healthier and more realistic.

Shortly put, perfectionism and anorexia go together. Try to figure out what makes you scared and change those thoughts. When you need to, get help from a professional. Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Accept that you can be wrong, too, and that it’s okay to “not be perfect

If you enjoyed reading this article, please click “Courses” and check out our interesting self-help courses on eating disorders that will be of help to you. The courses on “Body Image Concerns” and “Perfectionism” provide more information on the current topic. . You can also click on “Learn” on the navigation bar and read more articles on “Binge Eating”.

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