Evaluating Associations Between Perfectionism, Emotion Regulation, and Eating Disorder Symptoms in a Mixed-Gender Sample

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Abstract

Prior research supports maladaptive perfectionism as a risk factor for eating disorders; however, not all individuals with elevated levels of perfectionism endorse eating pathology, suggesting additional variables may interact with perfectionism to account for this association. The current study examined the influence of difficulties in emotion regulation on the relation between perfectionism and eating disorders. Undergraduate students (N = 309, 50.7% male) from a large university completed measures of perfectionism, emotion dysregulation, and eating pathology. The results indicated that high levels of perfectionism only accounted for significant variance in eating disorder symptoms among individuals with limited access to adaptive strategies to regulate emotions, but not among those with greater access to adaptive strategies. Findings demonstrate that clinicians and researchers should consider the role of emotion regulation among individuals with elevated levels of perfectionism and eating pathology. Future research should prospectively evaluate these associations and examine mechanisms that may further elucidate these relations.

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