Is personality the key in cognitive-behavioural therapy for eating disorders? A review

Davide Margola, Gianluca Fumagalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The efficacy of individual cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for eating disorders can be assessed by investigating the potential predictors, mediators and moderators of treatment. The present review focused on personality since its crucial role has been emphasized both by research and practice. Sixteen studies were collected, and data were extracted through a highly operationalized coding system. Overall, personality disorders were the most investigated construct; however, their influence was somewhat contradictory. A more cogent result occurred for borderline personality disorder (BPD) when considered as a moderator (not a predictor nor a mediator). Patients with a more disturbed borderline personality benefited to a greater extent from treatments including booster modules on affects, interpersonal relationships and mood intolerance, rather than symptoms exclusively. Nine additional personality dimensions, beyond BPD, were investigated sparsely, and results regarding them were barely indicative in this review. However, some of these dimensions (e.g., affective lability and stimulus-seeking behaviours) could be traced back to BPD, thereby strengthening evidence of the role of borderline disorder as a moderator. Although research on the relationship between personality and eating disorders needs to be increased and methodologically improved, personality, taken as a whole, emerged as a promising variable for enhancing the efficacy of CBT.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • eating disorders
  • predictors
  • personality
  • moderators


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