Just as people in general are unique and varied, individuals who develop eating disorders encompass a diverse range of personality types. They can be shy or gregarious, introverted or extroverted. They may enjoy many hobbies or only a few. They can love to go to parties and be social or prefer to stay at home alone or with just a close friend.
This being said, individuals who are prone to developing eating disorders often share specific personality characteristics. They tend to be perfectionists, highly-drive and ambitious. They can also be anxious or “high-strung” by nature, as well as sensitive, included to “people pleasing,” and self-doubting about their thoughts, opinions and beliefs.
- I care too much about what everyone thinks about me. I want to make everyone happy all the time. I don’t care how that makes me feel.
- People always say how compulsive I am. How driven I am all the time. But I can’t sit still. I have to be moving and doing things all the time.
- I’ve always been fear-based. I’m afraid of everything. Especially change. Even good kinds of changes terrify. I hate being so insecure.
- Everything has to be in its place. If it’s not, I get so nervous I can’t stand it.
Insecurity is a constant theme for someone with an eating disorder. She may worry a great deal about whether she’s good enough, whether she’s loved, whether she’s making the “right” choices. She may feel she isn’t as smart, competent or powerful as other people.
- I don’t know what I’m doing. I never know. Why is it that everyone always seems to know what to do? How do they know?
- I second-guess myself like crazy. I’ll think I think one thing, then the next minute change my mind. Again and again, over and over. Whatever anyone’s opinion is, that’s what my opinion becomes.
- I’m afraid people won’t like me if I do the wrong thing. I’m terrified about not making the correct choice or decision.
This low self-esteem and lack of confidence are often perplexing to friends and family. Their perception is that she’s a capable individual and they expect her to have a strong sense of who she is, high self-esteem and great self-confidence.*
To learn more about the role of personality in eating disorders development or maintenance, or to chat live with a Master’s-level therapist about concerning characteristics, thoughts or behaviors in a loved one, visit www.sedop.org.
*Excerpt from Why She Feels Fat by Tony Paulson, PhD and Johanna Marie McShane, PhD