Associations of borderline personality disorder traits with stressful events and emotional reactivity in women with bulimia nervosa

Carolyn M. Pearson, Jason M. Lavender, Li Cao, Stephen A. Wonderlich, Ross D. Crosby, Scott G. Engel, James E. Mitchell, Carol B. Peterson, Scott J. Crow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Borderline personality disorder (BPD) traits are common among those with bulimia nervosa (BN). However, how these traits impact the state experience of precipitants of BN behavior, such as stressful events and emotional reactivity, has not been determined. Thus, the purpose of this naturalistic study was to examine this trait-state association in BN. Women with DSM-IV BN (N = 133) completed a baseline measure of personality pathology traits, and subsequently recorded their affective state and the frequency and perception of 3 types of stressful events (interpersonal, work/environment, and daily hassles) several times per day for 2 weeks using ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Pearson correlations assessed the associations between BPD traits (affective lability, identity problems, insecure attachment, and cognitive dysregulation) and (a) frequency of stressful events and (b) perception of stressful events. Generalized linear models (GLM) were used to evaluate the relationship between BPD traits and changes in negative affect following stressful events. Results revealed that while all traits were significantly associated with perceived stressfulness, certain BPD traits were significantly associated with the frequency of stressful events. Individuals with higher trait insecure attachment experienced larger increases in negative affect following interpersonal stressful events. These findings suggest that interventions focused on addressing stressful events and enhancing adaptive emotional responses to interpersonal events may be particularly useful for a subset of individuals with BN with BPD-related personality characteristics, including insecure attachment, affective lability, and identity problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-539
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Psychological Association.


  • BPD
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Emotional reactivity
  • Negative mood
  • Stress


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