The relationships among interpersonal problems, disordered eating, and substance abuse in college-age females
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Research has documented a well-established association between Eating Disorders (EDs) and Substance-Use Disorders (SUDs; The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2003). One model used to explain this comorbidity is the personality traits and vulnerabilities model. Various studies have demonstrated distinct personality types associated with both Eating Disorders and Substance Use Disorders. The purpose of this study was to enhance personality research utilizing interpersonal theory to investigate interpersonal problems associated with disordered eating and substance use in a nonclinical sample. To help further understand these relationships emotional regulation was examined as a moderating variable. The results demonstrated positive relationships between disordered eating attitudes and behaviors and overall substance use. Females who indicated more interpersonal problems tended to report more frequent substance use and more disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, females that indicated higher rates of substance abuse tended to report interpersonal problems associated with being Cold-Domineering and Cold-Submissive. Conversely, results reflected a variety of interpersonal problems related to disordered eating symptoms and suggested heterogeneity in terms of types of interpersonal problems identified by participants. These variations and patterns are generally consistent with a pathoplasticity model related to the development of disordered eating. Moderation analyses revealed significant interaction effects between EI and interpersonal problems related to overall substance use as well as Neuroticism and overall substance use. The findings suggest those with higher degrees of interpersonal problems or Neuroticism, and lower EI, had higher frequency of substance use. Higher EI scores and lower Neuroticism scores were significant predictors of lower scores on measures of disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. However, interpersonal problems often demonstrated stronger associations with disordered eating above and beyond the main effect of EI and interaction effect.