Female Athletes with Eating Disorders

Female athletes with eating disordersFemale athletes may be more at risk of developing an eating disorder than other athletes or non-athletic women. A cultural emphasis on physical appearance and thinness may cause low self-esteem for any woman, and the pressure of being an athlete may increase the risk of eating disorders. Some eating disorder risk factors for female athletes include the following factors:

  • Sports that focus on individual achievement may pressure an athlete to perform better. Team sports focus on working together, which may improve self-esteem and reduce social anxiety.
  • Endurance sports like long-distance running, swimming, triathlons or other similar sports may increase performance anxiety while encouraging extreme athletic performance and restricted diet
  • Family dysfunction – women who struggle with family conflict, poor relationships with loved ones or who face high amounts of family criticism may be at risk for developing an eating disorder
  • Past trauma – emotional or physical abuse may lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, and without healthy coping methods these issues may lead to an eating disorder

The highly disciplined environment of competitive sports may encourage controlled and disordered eating habits. Self-imposed high standards for athletic achievement may coincide with pressure from family members, teammates, or coaches, which increase athletes’ anxiety and stress.

Why Women Susceptible to Eating Disorders Become Athletes

Women who are at risk for eating disorders may become athletes in an effort to lose weight. Low self-esteem and mental health issues such as obsessive compulsive disorder may lead some women to pursue athletics. Athletics provide a structured environment to those who may lack stability, and controlling eating habits may also be an unhealthy coping mechanism for some women. Many women with eating disorders experienced emotional or physical abuse or neglect during childhood, and they may have trouble processing difficult emotions. They may use exercise as a substitute for thinking about conflict or other issues that cause anxiety.

How Competitive Sports Lead to Eating Disorders

Competitive sports may increase an athlete’s susceptibility to eating disorders. The pressure to succeed can lead to athletes only value first place. A coach that puts more emphasis on perfection and winning rather than focusing on personal goals and improvements may hinder an athlete, especially if she already suffers from anxiety and low self-esteem.

Some competitive sports emphasize low weight and physical standards. Gymnastics and ice skating are sports with extreme standards for body type and weight, and they may be more stressful for some women who already struggle with body image issues.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

If you struggle with unhealthy eating habits, call us now. Our counselors can answer your questions about eating disorders and help you find treatment that is right for you. Call now, as our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day. Treatment can help you recover and get back to being a healthy athlete.