Temperament and character profile of eating disorders: A controlled study with the Temperament and Character Inventory




The question whether anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are different disorders or the extremes of a psychopathologic spectrum still has no definite answer. A way to face this problem is to examine the personality traits underlying these disorders.


The Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) was administered to 141 anorectics (70 Restrictor and 71 Binge-purging), to 102 bulimics, and to 100 controls. The Temperament and Character Inventory main scales are Novelty Seeking, Harm Avoidance, Reward Dependence, Persistence, Self-Directedness, Cooperativeness, and Self-Transcendence.


The personality profiles that emerged are characterized by low Novelty Seeking, high Harm Avoidance, high Persistence, and low Self-Directedness in AN, and by high Novelty Seeking, high Harm Avoidance, and low Self-Directedness in BN. Binge-purging anorectics showed a personality profile midway between anorectics and bulimics.


The dimensional study of personality through the TCI and its facets seems effective in discriminating the personality traits underlying the different subtypes of Eating Disorders. The hypothesis of an Eating Disorders spectrum and its clinical implications are discussed. © 2002 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 32: 412–425, 2002.