Date: 26 Jul 2013

Temperament and character in eating disorders: Ten years of studies

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In recent years a number of studies of personality have been performed in subjects with Eating Disorders (EDs) to investigate the clinical differences between controls and ED patients and among EDs subtypes, and its role in the development and course of symptoms. The Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ) and the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) have been widely used at this purpose, allowing the description of specific temperament and character profiles for EDs. High Harm Avoidance (HA) and low Self-Directedness (SD) are shared by all EDs. Slight differences on some facets have been found among ED subgroups. Nevertheless, HA is influenced by mood and both high HA and low SD are personality traits shared by many mental disorders, whose specificity is rather low. Restrictor anorectics are characterized by high Persistence (P) and a relatively higher SD, and bulimics by higher Novelty Seeking (NS) and the lowest SD, while binge/purging and purging anorectics share some traits with anorexia and some with bulimia. Though current data justify the discrimination among anorexia subtypes, they are not in contrast with the thesis of a continuum in ED personality traits. Since some personality traits display a prognostic value with regard to therapy and clinical outcome, further studies are needed on treatments and prognostic factors in EDs. Moreover, studies attempting to define the neurobiological and genetic correlates of temperament should be supported by clinical pharmacological trials.