Background: Perseveration, persistence and perfectionism are traits that have been suggested to be relevant to the eating disorders. This study explored the levels and correlates of these three traits in the eating disorders and control groups. Method: A measure of these three elements (the Persistence, Perseveration and Perfectionism Questionnaire - PPPQ-22) was administered to 99 women with eating disorders, 25 women with other psychiatric disorders, and 91 non-clinical women. Differences in PPPQ-22 scores across groups were measured, as were the associations between PPPQ-22 scores and eating attitudes. Results: The eating disordered groups showed lower levels of persistence (the drive towards goal achievement) than the non-clinical group, but did not show higher levels of perseveration (the following of rules, without considering whether goals are achieved). Both women with eating disorders and non-clinical controls showed correlations between eating disorder symptoms and perseveration. Conclusions: The current study, using a relatively new measure, suggests that low levels of persistence, rather than high levels of perseveration, may be implicated in the eating disorders. It was less clear that perfectionism per se was a useful construct in understanding eating pathology. If confirmed by future research, persistence should be considered in treatment of these complex and challenging conditions.