Food and eating problems are a serious concern among young women. Existing research has shown a link between eating problems and perfectionism. Evidence has also demonstrated a direct relationship between perfectionism and exercise. It has also been suggested that anger is related to perfectionism. Suppressed anger and trait anger may somehow increase the vulnerability for eating problems. But until recently, this relationship between anger and eating problems has not been thoroughly explored. College-age women, who are under academic, social, and peer pressures, experience heightened amounts of stress and are at increased risk for eating problems. For this reason, Dr. Mara Aruguete of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Lincoln University in Missouri conducted a study examining how trait and suppressed anger affect the perfectionism and exercise habits of women who are likely to struggle with eating and food issues.
For her study, Aruguete looked at 258 college students and assessed their levels of anger, both suppressed and trait. She found that while anger did indeed increase the risk of perfectionism in the participants, it did not directly increase the likelihood of eating problems. She also noticed that anger was an indicator of exercise adherence, but not in a way that created eating and food issues. These results suggest that although anger is a factor for increased exercise adherence and perfectionism, two interrelated behaviors, it does not independently increase the likelihood of developing an eating problem. But regardless of the origin of perfectionism or exercise adherence, these behaviors clearly predict a person’s chances of developing eating and food issues.
Aruguete also discovered that the participants who were committed to regular exercise exhibited decreased levels of trait anger. This has been shown in other studies, but Aruguete believes that these new findings warrant further research into the benefits of exercise on anger. She also found that although anger is related to perfectionism, only those participants with suppressed anger expressed high levels of perfectionism in her study. In conclusion, Aruguete noted that the participants, who were college-age women of diverse ethnicity, might be broadened in future research to better understand how all of these factors affect eating pathology in various cultures. She said, “Further research is needed to examine the complexity of the relationships between anger, perfectionism, and gender.”
Aruguete, M. S., Edman, J. L., Yates, A. (2012). The relationship between anger and other correlates of eating disorders in women. North American Journal of Psychology 14.1, 139-148.
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