The drive for perfectionism is unusually common in people experiencing body image issues and eating disorders. Perfectionism is quite different from the drive to improve, which is an appropriate and healthy desire. Perfectionistic people, however, believe that "perfect" is possible—and the problem is that it's not. This sets up the perfectionist for continual frustration and disappointment, which in turn leads to mental health issues, including eating disorders.
In this episode, our host Sam Ikin sits down with Professor Tracey Wade, who has spent 30 years researching the intersection of perfectionism and eating disorders. "As a perfectionist, you tend to have high but impossible goals," she says. "And when you inevitably don’t meet them, then self-criticism and depression occur. Perfectionism actually takes people away from success."
In fact, of all the difficult issues it causes, perfectionism has a particularly strong relationship to eating disorders.
Professor Wade spent time with Sam to explore what distinguishes perfectionism from the normal drive to achieve, how it harms health and wellbeing, and how we can learn to think differently for ongoing recovery.
Find out more about Professor Tracey Wade
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