Temperament in Eating Disorders

Much research has been done on personality traits associated with eating disorders, and, as I’ve blogged about here and here, on personality subtypes among patients with EDs. For example, researchers have found that individuals with AN tend to have higher levels of neuroticism and perfectionism than healthy controls (Bulik et al., 2006; Strober, 1981). Moreover, some traits, such as anxiety, have been associated with a lower likelihood of recovery, whereas others, such as impulsivity, with a higher likelihood of recovery from AN (see my post here).

Personality refers to “a set of psychological qualities that contribute to an individual’s enduring and distinctive patterns of feeling, thinking and behaviour” (Pervin & Cervone, 2010, as cited in Atiye et al., 2014). Temperament is considered to be a component of personality and refers to, according to one definition,”the automatic emotional responses to experience and is moderately heritable (i.e. genetic, biological) and … Continue reading →

Personality Traits after Recovery from Eating Disorders: Do Anorexia and Bulimia Patients Differ?

When we think about eating disorders, we tend to think about eating disorder subtypes: anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder. A lot of previous work has shown that individuals with AN and BN tend to be anxious, depressed, perfectionistic, and harm-avoidant. Patients with AN also tend to score low on novelty-seeking, impulsivity, and self-directedness, whereas patients with BN score high on novelty-seeking and impulsivity. More recently, however, some researchers began to wonder if there was another way to categorize patients–not according to symptoms, but according to personality traits?

They identified three clusters of personality subtypes that seemed to “cut across” eating disorder diagnoses, outlined below (taken from a previous post):

Three Personality Subtypes in Eating Disorder Patients:

  1. “dysregulated/undercontrolled pattern: characterized by emotional dysregulation and impulsivity”
  2. “constricted/overcontrolled pattern: characterized by emotional inhibition, cognitively sparse representations of self and others, and interpersonal avoidance”
  3. “high-functioning/perfectionist pattern: 
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3 Personality Subtypes in Eating Disorder Patients: Which One Fits You?

Scientists love classifying and categorizing things they study. But it can be a double-edged sword. Classification can lead to new insights about etiology or new treatment methods. But classification can also hamper our understanding. For example, researchers like to classify and study anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa as if they are two wholly separate disorders, but clinicians know that most patients fluctuate between diagnoses, and as a result often fall into the eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) category.

Nonetheless, if we keep in mind that the way in which we classify things can be very artificial and may not necessarily reflect some fundamental truths about the subject matter, we can focus on extracting the insights gained from the classifications.

In the case of eating disorders, classifying patients into subtypes may be useful for developing successful treatment approaches suited for particular patient subgroups.

Previous research on this topic has identified … Continue reading →