How perfectionism can lead to anorexia

Psychiatrist & Author SuEllen Hamkins, MD, explains how perfectionism in girls, if not dealt with, can often lead girls to become anorexic
How Perfectionism In Children Can Lead To Anorexia
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How perfectionism can lead to anorexia

Why is it that the girls who worry about least fall prey to anorexia? Girls who are kind and agreeable, and get good grades and come from good families and are trying to get it right. The reason is is because in our culture, dieting and being thin has come to be aligned with a moral high ground. We call skipping desert being good and eating a piece of cheesecake being bad. Girls who are trying to get it right and be good can get pulled into the idea that thinness equals goodness. Then they put themselves on an overly perfectionistic, excessive, calorie-restricting diet. And it’s that kind of a diet that makes girls vulnerable to the thought patterns of anorexia. Once anorexia takes hold, it becomes a harsh task master that’s never satisfied. Once girls reach that lower weight, the anorexia is not satisfied and the anorexic thoughts try to make her get to an even lower weight. This is why anorexia is so dangerous, because it’s actually life threatening and claims the lives of about 10% of girls who fall under its influence. What you can do to help prevent anorexia is to avoid perfectionistic expectations of your daughter and don’t equate thinness with goodness.

Psychiatrist & Author SuEllen Hamkins, MD, explains how perfectionism in girls, if not dealt with, can often lead girls to become anorexic


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SuEllen Hamkins, MD

Psychiatrist & Author

SuEllen Hamkins, MD, is a psychiatrist, author and founding member of the Mother-Daughter Project, a community of women and girls that developed powerful, practical ways to help mothers and daughters stay connected and thrive through adolescence. Co-author of The Mother-Daughter Project: How Mothers and Daughters Can Band Together, Beat the Odds and Thrive Through Adolescence, Dr. Hamkins has given numerous presentations for parents and psychotherapists around the world, focusing on mothers, daughters, their relationships and the kinds of communities that nurture them.  As the psychiatrist for the Smith College Counseling Service from 1992-2004, SuEllen offered consultation to over a thousand women ages 16 to 23 to help them resist and overcome problems such as anorexia, bulimia, depression, anxiety, trauma, assault, and self-injury.  In addition to her work on behalf of mothers and daughters, as the Assistant Director for Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, she has been instrumental in developing strengths-based, narrative approaches to psychotherapy and psychiatric practice, helping people cultivate their values and strengths in the face of serious difficulties.  SuEllen is the mother of two daughters, now 17 and 22, and raising them has been the most thrilling and rewarding work of her life. She lives with her husband and younger daughter in western Massachusetts, where they love to swim outdoors, cross country ski, shoe snow, dance, cook and lounge around in the living room, reading. 

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