Sumati Gupta, Ph.D.

Sumati Gupta Ph.D.

Emotional Eating

How Anxiety and Perfectionism Affect Your Eating

Anxiety and perfectionism play a role in binge eating and dieting

Posted Sep 28, 2012

Everyone experiences anxiety and some degree of perfectionism from time to time. To what extent might those qualities influence binge eating and dieting?  A new research study examined that question by following a group of college students weekly for about 3 months. 

The study, released online this month, was conducted at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Female college students completed questionnaires assessing their perfectionist personality. For the next 11 weeks they recorded their own experiences with anxiety, binge eating, and dieting.  

Women who were generally more anxious tended to binge eat and diet more often than women who were generally less anxious. However, when looking at each woman’s own anxiety levels, binge eating (but not dieting) increased as her anxiety increased. In other words, feeling especially anxious might lead someone to binge eat rather than diet.

While anxiety in this study was an emotional state changing over time, perfectionism was assumed to be a stable personality trait. The researchers found that women who were more perfectionistic engaged in higher rates of binge eating. 

Without understanding what triggers binge eating and dieting, it’s hard to change the pattern. Some forms of psychotherapy, like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), can help people become more aware of their own patterns related to anxiety and binge eating and then learn how to better respond to emotional triggers to binge eat. 

Dr. Gupta is a professor at Barnard College of Columbia University and provides invidual therapy at Tribeca Psychology in New York City

This article was originally posted on Binge Eating and Bulimia: The latest psychological research

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