Borderline personality disorder (BPD) features can interfere with relationships and work. Those same features may also affect general health. A recent study found that BPD features were related to higher rates of obesity and related health risks – arthritis and heart disease. People with BPD can work with their doctor and psychologist to find ways to reduce the risk of obesity.
Abigail Powers with Thomas Oltmanns, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, used data from the St. Louis Personality and Aging Network, a long-term study on health and ageing.
They looked at the BPD features of 1051 people using clinical interviews, self-report by the participants, and reports by friends or family members. People were also asked to report whether they had been under a doctor’s care for a range of health conditions including: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and obesity.
The researchers found that having BPD features increased the odds of obesity by two to three times. The link between BPD features and obesity was present even when factors that are known to influence obesity were taken into account, like age, education, economic status and substance abuse. BPD features also put participants at two times the risk of arthritis and two to three times the risk of heart disease.
The researchers found that the link between BPD features and arthritis and heart disease was mediated by obesity. In other words, the higher risk of arthritis and heart disease was because obesity increased the odds of these health problems.
The researchers noted that the study was limited because it did not track the timing of participants’ health issues. It is not clear whether the BPD features or other health conditions were first to appear in these people.
The authors concluded, “It is impossible to consider mental and physical health separately, and we must begin to think about ways to treat both together in an effort to promote better general health.”
Psychologist Nicole Meise, PhD said that symptoms of BPD like impulsive behaviours, mood swings, and feelings of emptiness can indeed put people at risk for unhealthy eating patterns.
Dr Meise said, “There a number of things that people can do to reduce the risk of obesity and manage symptoms of BPD. First, talk to your doctor about increasing diet and exercise and reducing calorie consumption. But also consult a therapist who can help you find effective ways to manage stress, increase your sense of self-worth, and improve impulse control.”
While much more research is needed on this subject it is hard not to see a link given the evidence provided, but it is important to say that not everyone with BPD is at risk of obesity, but it does seem a possibility that some might.