Perfectionism and eating disorder symptoms in female university students: the central role of perfectionistic self-presentation

  • Joachim StoeberEmail author
  • Daniel J. Madigan
  • Lavinia E. Damian
  • Rita Maria Esposito
  • Caterina Lombardo
Original Article



Numerous studies have found perfectionism to show positive relations with eating disorder symptoms, but so far no study has examined whether perfectionistic self-presentation can explain these relations or whether the relations are the same for different eating disorder symptom groups.


A sample of 393 female university students completed self-report measures of perfectionism (self-oriented perfectionism, socially prescribed perfectionism), perfectionistic self-presentation (perfectionistic self-promotion, nondisplay of imperfection, nondisclosure of imperfection), and three eating disorder symptom groups (dieting, bulimia, oral control). In addition, students reported their weight and height so that their body mass index (BMI) could be computed.


Results of multiple regression analyses controlling for BMI indicated that socially prescribed perfectionism positively predicted all three symptom groups, whereas self-oriented perfectionism positively predicted dieting only. Moreover, perfectionistic self-presentation explained the positive relations that perfectionism showed with dieting and oral control, but not with bulimia. Further analyses indicated that all three aspects of perfectionistic self-presentation positively predicted dieting, whereas only nondisclosure of imperfection positively predicted bulimia and oral control. Overall, perfectionistic self-presentation explained 10.4–23.5 % of variance in eating disorder symptoms, whereas perfectionism explained 7.9–12.1 %.


The findings suggest that perfectionistic self-presentation explains why perfectionistic women show higher levels of eating disorder symptoms, particularly dieting. Thus, perfectionistic self-presentation appears to play a central role in the relations of perfectionism and disordered eating and may warrant closer attention in theory, research, and treatment of eating and weight disorders.


Perfectionism Perfectionistic self-presentation Dieting Bulimia Oral control Body mass index 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

The study received no external funding. It was approved by the relevant ethics committee and followed the British Psychological Society’s code of ethics and conduct [32].

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of KentCanterburyUK
  2. 2.School of Sport and Exercise SciencesUniversity of KentCanterburyUK
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyBabeş-Bolyai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania
  4. 4.Department of PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

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