Competitiveness and Perfectionism: Common Traits of Both Athletic Performance and Disordered Eating

May 18, 2009

CHICAGO—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Timberline Knolls, one of the country’s leaders in the treatment of eating disorders, is recognizing well-known tennis star, Monica Seles, for disclosing her history with an eating disorder in her new book Get a Grip. Ms. Seles’ display of courage and candor has the potential to help many others who have similar struggles, especially young female athletes.

It is estimated that more than 11 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder and 20 million more suffer from binge-eating disorder. And because of the secretiveness and shame associated with eating disorders, this number is likely much larger. According to Kimberly Dennis, M.D., medical director at Timberline Knolls, the prevalence eating disorders in female athletes occur at an even higher rate than the general population.

“There are several features of an eating disorder illness that are particularly exacerbated in for females in athletics,” said Dr. Dennis. “And because so much attention is placed on success in athletics, the signs of these illnesses are overlooked by many parents, coaches, teachers and even physicians and therapists.”

Core features of an eating disorder in athletes:

Timberline Knolls specializes in helping women and adolescent girls 12 and older, offering treatment for complex co-occurring disorders that can include self-injury behavior (SIB), substance abuse, eating and other affective disorders. For more information on Timberline Knolls and the services offered visit

Kimberly Dennis, M.D. is the Associate Medical Director at Timberline Knolls. She is a member of the American Medical Association, Academy for Eating Disorders, the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry and the American Society for Addiction Medicine. She is published in the area of gender differences in the development of psychopathology, and has done research on the use of medication with family-based therapy for adolescents with anorexia nervosa.