The current status of suicide and self-injury in eating disorders: a narrative review

Kostro, Katrina; Lerman, Jessica; Attia, Evelyn

The aim of this paper is to review recent literature on suicide and self-injury in eating disorders (ED) including anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED). Among psychiatric diagnoses, EDs are associated with increased mortality rates, even when specialized treatment is available. Of the mortalities that are reported in individuals with EDs, suicide is among the most commonly reported causes of death. Additionally, suicidal and non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors occur frequently in this clinical population. A literature search was undertaken using the databases of Medline/PubMed and PsycInfo to identify papers describing suicidality in individuals with ED diagnoses. The authors identified studies and review articles published between 2005-2013 (inclusive) that describe the relationship between EDs and suicide, and associated behaviors including self-injurious behaviors, or non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). The initial search resulted in 1095 papers that met the a priori search criteria. After careful review, 66 papers were included. The majority of papers described clinical cohorts that were studied longitudinally. The diagnosis described most frequently in selected studies was AN. There are limited current data about the prevalence of suicide and NSSI among individuals with EDs. Among the published studies that focus specifically on the relationship between EDs and suicidality, most describe AN in more detail than other EDs. Nonetheless, rates of mortality, and specifically rates of suicide, are undeniably high in ED populations, as are the rates of self-harm. Therefore, it is critical for clinicians and caretakers to carefully evaluate these patients for suicide risk and to refer promptly for appropriate treatment.


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Journal of Eating Disorders

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September 23, 2014