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Eating Disorders: Personality Traits That Put You at Risk

Topic Overview

Some personality traits put a person at greater risk of developing an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating. These traits include:1

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Difficulty communicating negative emotions, such as anger, sadness, or fear.
  • Difficulty dealing with conflict.
  • A need to please others.
  • Perfectionism or always striving to be the best at whatever he or she does.
  • A need to be in control.
  • A need for attention.
  • Troubled relationship with parents (although it may seem that the relationship is close).
  • Problems separating from or being independent of the family.
  • High expectations from family.
  • Fear or ambivalence about growing up or developing sexually—including changes to the body during puberty.
  • Struggles with demands to be more independent and self-sufficient.
  • Problems with identity—not certain of who he or she is or where he or she is going in life.

However irrational, an eating disorder brings a sense of identity, achievement, and power to certain people who have these personality traits.

A small number of people who have eating disorders also have been sexually or physically abused. They seek to control their environment by controlling their food intake.

People who have eating disorders may also:

  • Have problems with moods, particularly depression.
  • Act more childish than other children or teens who are the same age.
  • Have difficulty getting along with other people, because of either irritability or an inability to interact socially.
  • Have rituals or require that things be done in a particular order every time (obsessive-compulsive traits).

References

Citations

  1. Katzman DK, Golden NH (2008). Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. In LS Neinstein et al., eds., Adolescent Health Care: A Practical Guide, 5th ed., 477–493. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Stewart Agras, MD, FRCPC - Psychiatry
Last Revised August 25, 2011

Last Revised: August 25, 2011

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