Connection Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bulimia

Woman laying in grass, struggling with Disordered Eating

Contributor: Camille Williams, MA, LCPC, Eating Disorder Specialist at Timberline Knolls

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is characterized by intense emotions, impulsivity, and experiencing life in extremes. Individuals with BPD have a difficult time managing their emotions effectively because of the intensity of the emotions experienced.

Emotions can influence the use of impulsive behaviors as a way of coping and because of the lack of rational cognition accessible. This can look like a rollercoaster life with emotions constantly up and down and behaviors that are done in excess or neglected altogether. There can be limited stability and consistency.

Understanding the Basis of Bulimia

Bulimia consists of engaging in binging on food followed by some form of purging; common types of purging are vomiting, laxatives, restricting, or exercise. There is an immediate similarity between BPD and bulimia, which is the rollercoaster effect. With bulimia, the individual will overeat and often feel out of control and then need to get rid of the food and be void of it all together.

Bulimic behaviors are also very impulsive. An individual engaging in bingeing and purging often lacks the ability to connect with logic and reason in order to stop the addictive behavior. Lastly, eating disorder behaviors are strongly influenced by emotions and are often used as a way to cope with difficult or intense emotions.

Connection Between Eating Disorders and BPD

Woman in sunlightEating disorder behaviors can provide temporary relief from emotions; for an individual with BPD who experiences intense emotions, this may be very appealing. Bingeing can provide numbness and comfort when experiencing intense anxiety or depression.

However, it is often followed by guilt and shame as well as physical discomfort that leads to purging behaviors to provide relief from the increased anxiety and depression that has surfaced as a result of bingeing. Thus, bulimia can provide a very immediate and impulsive way of managing emotions that feel out of control. Unfortunately, this is very temporary and unhealthy as well as ineffective in the long term. Engaging in eating disordered behaviors only leads to more extreme and intense emotions.

This connection and the similarities demonstrate why it is easy to see how these two diagnoses can go hand in hand. For an individual with bulimia and BPD it is important to find stability and consistency in the recovery process. This includes a meal plan that is balanced and portioned properly rather than the extreme behaviors with food. It also includes finding healthy ways of tolerating emotions through effective and recovery-focused coping skills.

Camille WilliamsAbout the Author: Camille Williams, MA, NCC, LCPC

As the Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Camille supports the development of curriculum, supervises the eating disorder specialist, and provides group therapy. She also educates and trains all staff on campus and advocates for eating disorder awareness through publications.

Camille started at Timberline Knolls as a Behavioral Health Specialist. She then transitioned into the Eating Disorder Specialist (EDS) role. In this position for nearly five years, she developed her skills and competence in working with the eating disorder population.

Camille received a Bachelor of Arts degree in both psychology and sociology from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. She then went on to earn a Master of Arts in Clinical Professional Psychology from Roosevelt University, IL.

Camille is a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP).

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals. We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 16, 2017.
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