College, Perfectionism and Eating Disorders

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By: Kristen, Central Florida Chapter For many college students, finals are looming closer and closer. Summer and its promises of sunshine, the alluring possibility of a vacation or an exciting internship opportunity, and a blissful break from projects, papers, and presentations is not far off, but the dreaded semester-end exams are, well, the storm before the calm. And for those who struggle with perfectionism, this season of late-night studying, scantron bubbling, and essay writing can bring on even higher stress levels. Perfectionism can color almost every facet of one’s life, from academics and relationships to looks. According to Psychology Today, "For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. It's a fast and enduring track to unhappiness, and perfectionism is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders.”

Perfectionists way their worth in numbers: The percentages on their report cards, their GPA, and the digits on the scale. Although not every perfectionist will suffer from an eating disorder, and not everyone who experiences an eating disorder is a perfectionist, like Psychology Today suggests, there is evidence that the personality trait and the mental illness are linked.

While college and its many stress-inducing aspects can exacerbate one’s perfectionism tendencies and disordered eating, the pressure to succeed does not always originate from within: “In many ways, attending college encourages perfectionism since a premium is placed on academic performance.

Moreover, some students experience performance pressures from family and friends. The pressures of college are augmented by the perfectionism trait and can often be linked to the development of disordered eating as a method of coping with low self-esteem and worries about academic performance.”

Even those who do not strive for perfection in every aspect of their lives can slip into disordered eating simply from the stress that comes with being a college student. Any way you spin it, stress is bad for your mental health. Although we perceive it as a necessary and even normal evil that pairs with college like peanut butter pairs with jelly, college students must be wary of the harmful side effects and take the time to de-stress.

While we cannot alleviate the pressure to succeed in college that complicates life not only for those with perfectionism and eating disorders, but all students, we can show that we care and remind students to take care of themselves. That is why I came up with the idea to offer finals week survival kits full of stress-relieving and soul-nourishing items to promote self-care and good mental health during this spring’s finals season. The care packages are generously sponsored by LUSH, EO Products, La Colombe Coffee, High Brew Cold Brew Coffee, Bobo’s Bars, Badger Healthy Body Care, and Oriental Trading Company. Each box will come with a choice of 6 different motivational cards that can be personalized with a message. All of the proceeds from the kits will go directly to Project HEAL to help save lives. You can order one for yourself or a friend or child at https://squareup.com/store/project-heal-central-florida. Or, you know, if you’re living that broke college student life, you could send the link to your parents or relatives ;)