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Personality characteristics of women before and after recovery from an eating disorder

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 November 2004

Background. Previous studies of personality characteristics in women with eating disorders primarily have focused on women who are acutely ill. This study compares personality characteristics among women who are ill with eating disorders, recovered from eating disorders, and those without eating or other Axis I disorder pathology.

Method. Female participants were assessed for personality characteristics using the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI): 122 with anorexia nervosa (AN; 77 ill, 45 recovered), 279 with bulimia nervosa (BN; 194 ill, 85 recovered), 267 with lifetime histories of both anorexia and bulimia nervosa (AN+BN; 194 ill, 73 recovered), 63 with eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS; 31 ill, 32 recovered), and 507 without eating or Axis I disorder pathology.

Results. Women ill with all types of eating disorders exhibited several TCI score differences from control women, particularly in the areas of novelty-seeking, harm avoidance, self-directedness, and cooperativeness. Interestingly, women recovered from eating disorders reported higher levels of harm avoidance and lower self-directedness and cooperativeness scores than did normal control women.

Conclusions. Women with eating disorders in both the ill and recovered state show higher levels of harm avoidance and lower self-directedness and cooperativeness scores than normal control women. Although findings suggest that disturbances may be trait-related and contribute to the disorders' pathogenesis, additional research with more representative community controls, rather than our pre-screened, normal controls, is needed to confirm these impressions.

Corresponding author
Dr Kelly L. Klump, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1116, USA. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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