Self-Handicapping Among Women with Eating Disorders

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April 2000 Volume 11, Number 2
©2000 Gürze Books

Women may use an eating disorder as an excuse for failure or to avoid taking on new challenges, according to researchers at the Toronto Hospital. Three groups of women, including 40 dieters, 40 non-dieters, and 40 women with eating disorders, were entered in a study that allegedly tested the effects of music on verbal reasoning. Dieters and non-dieters practiced the same amount of time whether or not they expected their test performance would be known. In contrast, women with eating disorders practiced significantly more than non-eating disordered patients when they expected that their performance would not be known, but did not practice when they expected that their performance would be made public. The researchers note that this suggests that women with eating disorders use self-handicapping to protect themselves from negative public evaluation in case of failure. They add that further study is needed to learn whether self-handicapping is a trait that precedes the onset of an eating disorder or if it is acquired after the onset of the illness.

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