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The purpose of this study was to identify factors related to the onset of eating disorders in female athletes. Participants were 17 collegiate female athletes (mean age of 20.7) who experienced eating disorders. Participants were interviewed individually and responses were coded thematically. Results revealed internal and external factors related to the onset of eating disorders. Internal factors included: Negative Mood States, Low Self Esteem, Perfectionism/Drive for Achievement, and Desire for Control. External factors included: Negative Influences on Self-Esteem, Hurtful Relationships, Hurtful Role Models, and Sport Performance. Findings suggest that many triggers for onset among athletes are similar to those reported among nonathletes. However, results demonstrate that the sport environment has a unique impact on athletes’ eating disorder development. In particular, negative comments by coaches, modeling of eating disordered behaviors by other athletes, and sport performance pressure all contributed to eating pathology. Implications and recommendations for the sport community are discussed.
Arthur-Cameselle is with the Dept. of Counseling Service, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY. Quatromoni is with the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA.