In the current study, we had two aims. First, we investigated the associations between eating psychopathology, situational interpersonal difficulties, and dispositional interpersonal difficulties among athletes and nonathletes. Second, we examined the mediating role of self-critical perfectionism, self-esteem, and depression in these associations. A total of 152 athletes and 147 nonathletes completed self-report instruments pertaining to relationship quality with significant others, as well as social anxiety, loneliness, self-critical perfectionism, self-esteem, depression, and eating psychopathology. Social anxiety and loneliness were found to be the only significant independent predictors of eating psychopathology among both athletes and nonathletes. However, such associations were indirectly mediated through depression for athletes and through self-critical perfectionism, self-esteem, and depression for nonathletes. The findings of this study suggest that the psychosocial mechanisms involved in the eating psychopathology of athletes are relatively similar to that of nonathletes. Thus, it can be tentatively proposed that treatments and interventions that target reducing interpersonal conflicts currently available for the general population should also be offered to athletes.
Vaithehy Shanmugam is with the School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, UK. Sophia Jowett is with the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences and Caroline Meyer is the Director of Loughborough Centre for Research into Eating Disorders, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, both at Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK.