Borderline Personality Disorder as a Co-Occurring Issue With Eating Disorders

Woman struggling body image

It is not uncommon to see more than one mental illness develop in a person who may be susceptible. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is no exception, as this particular condition sees high rates of other co-occurring mental disorders, such as eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and other behavioral disorders, which may include substance abuse.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, estimates of BPD prevalence in the United States population ranges from 1.6 percent to 5.9 percent [1]. BPD is classified as a personality disorder and is characterized by several behaviors, including impulsive acts that can be hurtful to oneself, episodes of intense anger or difficulty controlling anger, and temporary feelings of paranoia.

Understanding the Connection Between BPD and Eating Disorders

Another common characteristic associated with BPD is the experience of childhood trauma, including neglect, early parental loss, or physical/sexual abuse [1]. Some of the symptoms experienced with BPD may also overlap with other mental illnesses, commonly bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders.

Eating disorders arise from the combination of both biological and environmental factors and may have similar roots as BPD, which can make a person susceptible to develop co-occurring mental illnesses.

The psychological, emotional and mental symptoms associated with BPD can feed into the maladaptive and chronic behaviors of eating disorders. For example, a person with BPD who may experience chronic feelings of emptiness may look to a tangible substance, like food, to numb this feeling.

Woman reflectionSimilarly, an individual with BPD who engages in impulsive acts may be more inclined to binging/purging behaviors that are associated with bulimia. There are many more abnormal and dangerous eating disorder behaviors that a person with BPD may engage in for various reasons, including self-punishment, attempting to regulate emotions, express anger, or even relieve emotional pain.

Finding Professional Help

The combination of both BPD and eating disorders can be deadly if left untreated and without the intervention of treatment specialists, including coordinated efforts from multiple providers. While many eating disorder treatment facilities often coordinated care for individuals struggling with co-occurring mental illnesses, it is important to inquire about this in search for treatment. Recruiting professional help can be instrumental in improving the prognosis.

Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!

If you or a loved one has struggled with BPD, what resources were helpful for your recovery?

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: An Introduction to Co-Occurring Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Use Disorders, Accessed 12 December 2016

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 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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 14, 2016
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