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
Eating 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.
Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!
If you have struggled with co-occurring bulimia and borderline personality disorder, what resources were helpful for your recovery?
About the author: Camille Williams, MA, LCPC is an Eating Disorder Specialist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. Her primary responsibilities consist of facilitating group therapy, creating individualized support plans, and education and awareness for resident’s continued success in recovery. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and Sociology from Augustana College. She was awarded a Master’s Degree in Clinical Professional Counseling from Roosevelt University.
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.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 14, 2017. Published on EatingDisorderHope.com