Personality, perfectionism and eating disturbances in a sample of ballet dancers, general dancers and non-dancers: a cross-sectional study.
Lockwood, Jennifer A
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The present study investigated the claim that elite athletes, and in particular ballet dancers, are at an increased risk of developing an eating disorder. In addition it attempted to determine whether this increased risk could be explained in terms of the ballet dancers’ personality and levels of perfectionism. A new measure was designed, termed the Eating Attitudes and Behaviours Questionnaire (EABQ). The EABQ aimed to assess eating disorder symptoms, based on the criteria the DSM-IV-TR lays down for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Factor analysis revealed a single dimension termed Eating Attitudes and Behaviours (EAB) which was found to account for 51.88% of the variance in the data. 113 non-dancers, 57 general dancers and 39 ballet dancers were asked to complete an on-line questionnaire which measured body image (BSQ), personality (NEO-FFI), perfectionism (MPS) and eating attitudes and behaviours (EABQ). Participants’ scores on the EABQ and BSQ were averaged into a new measure termed Attitudes to Eating and Body Shape (AEBS). In line with our hypotheses, ballet dancers were found to display significantly higher eating and weight preoccupations than both general dancers and non-dancers. Ballet dancers were also found to display a similar personality profile to individuals with eating disorders, characterized by high levels of neuroticism and perfectionism and low levels of extraversion. Neurotic ballet dancers appeared to display the highest levels of eating disturbances. Conclusions of the present study are that ballet dancers do appear to be at an increased risk of developing eating and weight preoccupations, and that this risk can be explained in part by their personality profiles.