High-Achieving Women and Binge Eating Disorder

Woman with BED walking her dog

The term “high-achieving” may seem self-explanatory, but there are a few behaviors and traits that stand out as high-achieving.

Individuals that have high-achieving personalities, first and foremost, have a strong desire to accomplish their goals.

They are adept at combining these desires with their motivation, resources, and abilities to ensure that the goals are met.

As Psychology Today perfectly explains, “they are willing to expend intense effort over long timespans in pursuit of their goals [1].”

The Downside to Being a High-Achieving Woman

Being high-achieving is not necessarily harmful, but women with these personalities can be particularly at risk for eating disorders, particularly Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

Our society continues to fight for gender equality, but women still have to fight harder than men to earn and maintain success in many fields.

Women that are high-achieving are more likely to make more money and hold higher positions in their fields but are still met continuously with pressure and push-back.

This endless fight to justify one’s spot at the table can result in unbelievable stress, a distorted self-concept, and little, to no, time for positive self-care.


Untamed and continuously mounting stress is a dangerous risk factor for BED as well as an unfortunate consequence of high-achieving personalities.

Woman on beachIt has been found that women, in general, report higher levels of stress and anxiety than men.

Researchers theorize that this may be because “women may face different stressors than men, including targeted societal messages regarding body image [Rosenbaum].”

These concerns, as well as gender-specific stresses such as sexual harassment, are linked with greater eating pathology in women [2].

High-achieving women face all of these challenges, and more, on a daily basis and undoubtedly experience incredible stress as a result.

Elevated stress levels have been found to precede the onset of BED, meaning that individuals often experience severe stress, engage in binge eating in an attempt to manage this stress. In too many cases, this unhealthy coping mechanism manifests into a disorder [3].


High-achieving personalities are also at a higher risk for poor self-concept, often as a result of the immense pressure, they place on themselves to achieve success and perfection.

Also, as stated above, women are more likely to feel societal pressure to achieve the “thin ideal.”

For an individual that is high-achieving, constantly being pressured and reminded to fulfill a physical, societal expectation they may not be able to accomplish could cause them to view themselves as failures and seriously harm their feelings of self-worth.

As if having poor self-worth isn’t enough, that, in turn, creates other risks. Namely, numerous studies have found that poor self-image and self-concept are correlated with binge eating [4].


Combine the stress and anxiety that comes with a high-achieving personality with no release, and an explosion is sure to follow.

Woman sitting in the snow

BED can often be that explosion. They perceive that binging helps to release their mounting negative emotions but the end result is an unsatisfying and short-lived release followed by further anxiety resulting from shame and guilt.

Studies show that BED interventions focused on decreasing the experience of negative emotions and poor self-concept are successful [3].

Often, the problem is that women that have high-achieving personalities have little time to engage in self-care activities that will assist them in this manner.

Having a high-achieving personality is not a bad thing. It can lead to incredible progress for society and the individual.

Having a high-achieving personality, however, carries risk for which must be accounted. Ensure that your self-concept is not contingent on your career success. Remind yourself that perfection does not exist, and find ways to cope with stress that bring you joy.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


[1] Beuke, Carl (2011). How do high achievers really think? Psychology Today. Retrieved on 02 January 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/youre-hired/201110/how-do-high-achievers-really-think.
[2] Rosenbaum, D. L., White, K. S. (2015). The related of anxiety, depression, and stress to binge eating behavior. Journal of Health Psychology, 20:6.
[3] Striegel-Moore, R. H. (2007). Risk factors for binge-eating disorders: an exploratory study. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40: 481-487.
[4] Goodrick. G. K. (1999). Binge eating severity, self-concept, dieting self-efficacy, and social support during treatment of binge eating disorder. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 26: 295-300.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on February 8, 2018.

Published on EatingDisorderHope.com