Attempted suicide in patients with eating disorders


Portzky G, van Heeringen K, Vervaet M

Background: Suicide is a major cause of mortality for patients with eating disorders (ED), especially for patients with anorexia nervosa. Attempted suicide is also relatively common in patients with anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Aims: This study aimed at examining associations between attempted suicide and trait-and state-dependent characteristics in a large clinical population of ED patients. Method: The sample consisted of 1,436 in-and outpatients of the Centre for Eating Disorders of the Ghent University Hospital. Measures of ED symptoms, psychopathology, and personality traits were compared between ED patients with and ED patients without a history of attempted suicide. Results: A history of attempted suicide was found in 11.8% of the ED patients and lifetime suicidal ideation was reported by 43.3%. Multivariate analyses showed that a history of attempted suicide was associated with higher scores on depression, purging symptomatology, early-developed cognitive schemes (impaired autonomy and increased inhibition), and social insecurity. Conclusion: These findings support the increased risk of suicidal behavior in ED. The presence of particular personality traits, of cognitive schemes, and of purging and depressive symptoms should increase vigilance for suicidal behavior.