Personality traits among currently eating disordered, recovered and never ill first-degree female relatives of bulimic and control women
Background. A combined family study and recovered study design was utilized to examine several hypothesized relationships between personality and bulimia nervosa (BN).
Methods. We studied 47 women with a lifetime history of DSM-III-R BN (31 currently ill and 16 recovered), 44 matched control women (CW) with no history of an eating disorder (ED), and their first-degree female relatives (N = 89 and N = 100, respectively), some of whom had current or previous EDs.
Results. BN probands' relatives with no ED history had significantly elevated levels of perfectionism, ineffectiveness, and interpersonal distrust compared to CW probands' relatives with no ED history. In contrast, diminished interoceptive awareness, heightened stress reactivity and perfectionistic doubting of actions were found among the previously eating disordered relatives of bulimic probands compared to their never ill relatives. Finally, a sense of alienation and emotional responsivity to the environment were elevated among currently ill compared to recovered bulimic probands.
Conclusions. The fact that perfectionism, ineffectiveness and interpersonal distrust are transmitted independently of an ED in relatives suggests that they may be of potential aetiological relevance for BN. In contrast, diminished interoceptive awareness, heightened stress reactivity and perfectionistic doubting of actions are more likely consequent to, or exacerbated by, previously having experienced the illness. Finally, a sense of alienation and emotional responsivity to the environment are more likely to be associated with currently having BN.
c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Walter H. Kaye, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O'Hara Street E-724, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.