The Link Between Borderline and Eating Disorders
Updated: Oct 17, 2022
Mental disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, often come in a package. BPD is often comorbid with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. The most common eating disorder among people with BPD is binge eating. People with BPD binge eat to fill their emptiness and to distract themselves from their internal turmoil by focusing on food. After binge eating, self-imposed starvation is the next most common eating disorder in people with BPD.
A Borderline Eating Disorder
Typical BPD eating habits are, for example, behaviors like binge-eating, abuse of laxatives, purging, and self-induced vomiting, which are all impulsive and risk-taking. Also, self-harm and suicidal behavior can be a result of the emptiness and despair felt by someone suffering from an eating disorder.
Dissociation is also a symptom of both BPD and eating disorders. In BPD, dissociation is often a result of shutting off their emotional state to avoid the inner turmoil, or because the trauma experienced was too much to deal with. In eating disorders it is similar, but in addition, starvation and nutritional deprivation can cause emotional, psychological, and physical damage. This could also induce dissociation.
Another feature of BPD found in eating disorder sufferers is the fear of abandonment. For example, an anorexic will believe that the thinner they are, the more likely their partners will like them and not leave them. This gives the individual a sense of control.
Lastly, people that suffer from an eating disorder will feel that their identity is based on the disorder. It is their way to connect with the world. Without their eating disorder, they feel like they are nobody. Eating disorders can leave their victims feeling a sense of despair and emptiness. To cope with their feelings of emptiness, they can "fill" themselves by binge-eating.
Correlation between Eating disorders and BPD
Both disorders often appear during adolescence. Additionally, both are associated with childhood trauma and abuse. It is estimated that over half of BPD sufferers also have a history of eating disorders. BPD has been found to be present in 25% of people who suffer from anorexia and 28% of people who suffer from bulimia. These are significant numbers, indicating a strong link between the two disorders.
Research has shown that BPD develops before the eating disorder does. A question that might arise from this observation is can BPD cause an eating disorder? No, BPD does not cause eating disorders; however, someone with BPD is more likely to develop an eating disorder than someone who does not have BPD.
BPD, eating disorders and the correlation with sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is related to the development of eating disorders, particularly bulimia. Research has found that BPD may be the mediator between sexual abuse and an eating disorder. Borderline personality disorder could be, along with other factors, the linking chain between a childhood experience of sexual abuse and a later diagnosis of an eating disorder.
Treatment for Eating disorders and BPD
Even though borderline personality disorder and eating disorders are correlated, it is important to know that the disorders are two completely different disorders that require specific treatments. Commonly, professionals will decide which of the 2 disorders requires more priority. For example, if the eating disorder lands the individual in-hospital care, then the eating disorder will receive the most priority. The same goes for BPD.
Luckily, both disorders are treatable, and with the right help, recovery is possible. The sooner the disorders are treated, the better the outcome.
What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are conditions centered around a severe disturbance in eating behaviors. They are associated with physical, psychological, and social distress, along with emotional turbulence and rumination. Around 5% of the population suffers from an eating disorder, and the disorders are likely to develop during adolescence. There are different types of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, pica, and rumination disorder. Even though eating disorders can occur at any age and gender, anorexia and bulimia nervosa are far more frequent in women.
Symptoms of eating disorders range from avoidance of certain foods to purging by vomiting, or even compulsive exercise. People suffering from eating disorders can have behaviors similar to addictions.
Eating disorders are also associated with substance abuse and suicidal ideation. The treatment should address psychological, behavioral, and nutritional complications.
Anorexia- and bulimia nervosa