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Compr Psychiatry. 2010 Jan-Feb;51(1):31-6. doi: 10.1016/j.comppsych.2009.03.003. Epub 2009 May 2.

Personality dimensions in bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and obesity.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA.



The purpose of this investigation was to examine differences in personality dimensions among individuals with bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, non-binge eating obesity, and a normal-weight comparison group as well as to determine the extent to which these differences were independent of self-reported depressive symptoms.


Personality dimensions were assessed using the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire in 36 patients with bulimia nervosa, 54 patients with binge eating disorder, 30 obese individuals who did not binge eat, and 77 normal-weight comparison participants.


Participants with bulimia nervosa reported higher scores on measures of stress reaction and negative emotionality compared to the other 3 groups and lower well-being scores compared to the normal-weight comparison and the obese samples. Patients with binge eating disorder scored lower on well-being and higher on harm avoidance than the normal-weight comparison group. In addition, the bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder groups scored lower than the normal-weight group on positive emotionality. When personality dimensions were reanalyzed using depression as a covariate, only stress reaction remained higher in the bulimia nervosa group compared to the other 3 groups and harm avoidance remained higher in the binge eating disorder than the normal-weight comparison group.


The higher levels of stress reaction in the bulimia nervosa sample and harm avoidance in the binge eating disorder sample after controlling for depression indicate that these personality dimensions are potentially important in the etiology, maintenance, and treatment of these eating disorders. Although the extent to which observed group differences in well-being, positive emotionality, and negative emotionality reflect personality traits, mood disorders, or both, is unclear, these features clearly warrant further examination in understanding and treating bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

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