Personality traits associated with anorexia nervosa and eating disorder symptoms in adolescents; a meta-analytic review
Personality traits have been recognized to play a key role in the development and maintenance of eating disorders (EDs), yet much of past literature has focused on adult eating disordered samples. Because EDs typical onset is during the adolescent years, and early treatment may contribute to a more positive prognosis, this literature review sought to summarize existing studies focusing on personality and EDs, or eating disordered symptomology in adolescence. Additionally, I completed eight meta-analyses comparing scores on a variety of personality variables between adolescents with anorexia nervosa (AN) and healthy controls; where possible clinical vs non-clinical samples and differences in personality measures were explored as potential moderating factor. Results indicated that adolescents with AN differed from healthy controls on perfectionism, ineffectiveness, impulse regulation, interpersonal distrust and interoceptive awareness. Novelty seeking and maturity fears did not differ between the two groups. The nature of the sample moderated the relationship between interoceptive awareness and AN, such that clinical samples showed poorer interoceptive awareness. Findings support existing evidence associating personality traits with EDs and extends this to the adolescent age range. It is argued that different combinations of personality traits interact with one another to increase risk and maintain an individual's ED, and this should be taken into account during treatment. Further research using longitudinal designs are needed to help understand the impact personality has on EDs across time; we also need more studies focusing on ethically and gender diverse samples - both of which have been ignored thus far.