Who is affected?
Eating disorders are oftentimes accompanied with thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts. In fact, suicide is the most common cause of death among individuals with eating disorders, while eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders. Recent studies have shown that within the eating disorder population individuals with anorexia have the highest rate of completed suicide and those with bulimia have the greatest number of attempts. Furthermore, one study also found that half of individuals struggling with binge eating disorder have attempted suicide. Attempts by individuals with anorexia tend to be planned, while attempts by individuals with bulimia tend to be more impulsive.
When trying to understand suicidality amongst those with eating disorders there are many things to keep in mind:
- They may often feel unworthy and hopeless.
- They may have a distorted sense of reality.
- They may be malnourished and not thinking clearly.
- They may battle with disordered thoughts.
- They may feel that their suffering is a burden to their friends and family.
- They may feel like there is no other way out, trapped by their thoughts and daily rigid or chaotic routines.
Understanding the five signs of emotional suffering
- Personality changes: You may notice sudden or gradual changes in the way that someone typically behaves. People in this situation may behave in ways that don’t seem to fit their values, or the person may just seem different.
- Uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody: You may notice the person has more frequent problems controlling his or her temper and seems irritable or unable to calm down. People in more extreme situations of this kind may be unable to sleep or may explode in anger at a minor problem.
- Withdrawal or isolation from other people: Someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends and stop taking part in activities that used to be enjoyable. In more severe cases the person may start failing to make it to work or school. Not to be confused with the behavior of someone who is more introverted, this sign is marked by a change in a person’s typical sociability, as when someone pulls away from the social support typically available.
- May neglect self-care and engage in risky behavior: You may notice a change in the person’s level of personal care or an act of poor judgment. For instance, someone may let personal hygiene deteriorate, or the person may start abusing alcohol or illicit substances or engaging in other self-destructive behavior that may alienate loved ones.
- Overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by circumstances: Have you noticed someone who used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything to be hopeful about? That person may be suffering from extreme or prolonged grief, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. People in this situation may say that the world would be better off without them, suggesting suicidal thinking. If you suspect that someone you know is at risk for suicide, take action and be proactive. Fifty to seventy-five percent of all people who attempt suicide confide in someone about their intention, so it is critical to be aware if someone is reaching out for help and take any warning signs seriously.