The Relationship Between EDs And Personality Disorders

The relationship between EDs and Personality Disorders

Eating disorders (ED) are pathologies for which finding a single cause is impossible. However, the most solid explanation that scientific research has given indicates that in The appearance of the disease brings together both sociocultural factors and individual and personality aspects.. Let’s delve a little deeper into this.

It is possible to affirm the former since EDs represent a period of discomfort. In 21st century societies, discourses are promulgated that worship perfect bodies that are sold as consumer objects. This leads people to contrast again and again the desired body, the perfect one, the hegemonic one, with the real body one has. Technology, screens, and the place occupied by discomfort distractors also influence the genesis of these disorders linked to the relationship with food. Furthermore, the events occurring in the world are reflected in statistics: it has been found that the COVID-19 pandemic has induced certain stressors—such as social distancing and confinement measures—that could have exacerbated the triggers of a TCA. Other studies indicate that EDs increased in Spain by more than 200% in the period when staying at home was mandatory.

However, these factors are not sufficient to explain the origin of an eating disorder. Over the last decades, a core of scientific articles has been prepared with the purpose of finding or not relationships between EDs and other individual variables. In relation to this, Arija-Val and collaborators point out that eating disorders usually occur simultaneously with other psychiatric conditions that alter the severity and prognosis of these pathologies.

Such is the case of comorbidity with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, the existence of self-harm and anxiety. In addition to presenting together, the fact of previously suffering from a psychiatric disorder could lead to the development of an eating disorder. The literature on the subject is vast, so attempting to address everything that is known regarding the relationship between ED and psychological variables would be impossible to cover in this article. However, we propose to review the findings that a particular line of research has reached, tracing the relationship between eating disorders and personality disorders.

Eating disorders

First of all, knowing the basics of what an eating disorder entails is key to understanding its relationship with personality disorders. Eating disorders are a set of distinguishable conditions – such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder, SAD – but which share the presence of a series of negative beliefs about food and the performance of behaviors. that point to restriction or purging in relation to intake.

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Currently, The prevalence of eating disorders is considered to be 5.7% in women and 2.2% in men, placing women and young people as the main risk groups for suffering from an ED. Fortunately, eating disorders can be treated. In general, empirical evidence supports the idea that treatments carried out by interdisciplinary teams are the most effective. This involves the joint work of psychiatrists, nutritionists, psychologists and other professionals who support the patient and, also, intervene in their family and support network to sustain recovery and adherence to treatment.

Personality: traits and disorders

In addition to the sociocultural factors mentioned and the presence of other mental disorders, certain personality traits could be linked to EDs. Personality is, according to some authors, a way of communicating, thinking, expressing emotions and reacting to others in a more or less coherent and sustained way over time. Sometimes, traits can become inflexible and prevent the individual from adapting to the social environment, causing high degrees of discomfort in their life and diminishing their vital areas.

According to these theories, individuals have personality traits (obsessive traits, shyness, etc.) that in themselves do not imply a disorder, but rather a tendency to think, feel and act in a certain way. It is the alteration of personality traits that gives rise to the development of a personality disorder. People who suffer from a personality disorder often deviate from the expectations imposed by the surrounding culture.both in a thought dimension and in a behavioral one, and this negatively affects the way of bonding emotionally with others.

The relationship between personality disorders and eating disorders

Patients with ED frequently present obsessive, conformist and inhibited personality traits. The obsessive factor, as well as the tendency to shyness, dependence and anxiety, is usually common in this type of patient. Regarding personality disorders, it has been found that patients with restrictive anorexia nervosa who suffer from a personality disorder usually tend to be an avoidant personality disorder, characterized by the avoidance of situations in which they could be evaluated negatively. .

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Another important issue to note is that perfectionism and negative self-evaluation seem to be a characteristic that occurs as an antecedent for the most studied eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In light of these data, We could refer to the fact that one of the elements capable of triggering an eating disorder is following restrictive diets.. If we add to this the search for perfection and low self-esteem, it is possible that this type of disorder will emerge with greater probability.

Beyond this, it is necessary to clarify that the studies do not allow us to determine directly causal relationships between personality disorders and eating disorders. This means that we cannot affirm that a personality disorder generates, without any mediation, an ED (as we pointed out at the beginning, the most coherent explanation to explain the origin of these pathologies maintains that there are multiple causes for the disease and that they culminate at the same time). Most research is descriptive or relational.

The importance of receiving treatment quickly

Of course, this does not mean that the findings that have been reached are of great help for the improvement of these patients. For example, one study followed the treatment of a group of ED patients over time. When an initial evaluation of the patients was made, 91% of them suffered from some personality disorder. However, after follow-up four years later, this factor was re-evaluated and it was found that only 36% suffered from a personality disorder. Therefore, in patients who suffer from both disorders, treatments for ED could lead to an improvement in both pathologies.

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This leads to emphasizing the vital importance of consulting as soon as possible with a team of health professionals capable of carrying out adequate treatment for a patient with ED; and if you know someone who is going through this situation, accompany the person to start treatment as much as possible.