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Momentary emotion surrounding bulimic behaviors in women with bulimia nervosa and borderline personality disorder

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Bulimia nervosa (BN) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are disorders that involve emotion dysregulation, for negative emotion in particular, as well as impulsive behaviors beyond binge eating and vomiting. Given these similarities in psychopathology, it is not surprising that those with BN also present with BPD in approximately one third of cases. Improved understanding of similarities and differences in the experience of negative and positive emotion could aid in the development of treatments specifically tailored to the needs of these disorders.


In this study, we examined Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) data from 133 women diagnosed with BN, 25 of whom also exhibited diagnostic levels of BPD. Emotions and behaviors were assessed daily, with multiple random and event-contingent signals to complete questionnaires on portable digital devices, for a period of two weeks.


Results indicated that the BPD group experienced higher negative emotional variability on bulimic event days. Both groups also demonstrated increasing negative emotion and decreasing positive emotion pre- binge eating and vomiting, with levels of negative emotion decreasing and positive emotion increasing after, for both behaviors.


In terms of group differences, additive effects were found for the BN comorbid with BPD group, who demonstrated greater negative emotional variability, on bulimic event days, and also had higher overall levels of negative emotion pre- and post-binge eating. Those with BN only, however, displayed increasing trajectories of positive emotion before and after binge eating and after vomiting, indicating a potential emotional dampening effect of BPD.

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