Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: Eating Disorders Can Be Deadly

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Eating disorders are the most deadly class of mental illness a person can live with. Not only can the effects of an eating disorder like anorexia or binge eating disorder take a life-threatening toll on a person’s body, but those who live with these disorders also face a high risk for suicide.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. While suicide is a danger for people with all mental illness and disorders, those who live with eating disorders are especially at risk.

Research from the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests suicide is the leading cause of death for people with anorexia, taking the life of up to half of all people who live with anorexia. Other statistics say as many as one in five people with anorexia attempt suicide while struggling with their eating disorder.

Even more troubling, studies suggest that people with anorexia are particularly committed to ending their life when they commit suicide. A study from the University of Vermont and reported in TIME says suicidal individuals with anorexia use unusually highly lethal methods to commit suicide that guarantee death. The lead author of the study Jill Holm-Denoma, went so far as to say one of the defining traits of anorexia is a desire to die.

In the study, the researchers reviewed the cases of none people who struggled with anorexia before committing suicide. The cases revealed a pattern where the individuals would isolate themselves, potentially to reduce the chance of receiving life-saving help or support, before taking their lives.

While the manner of death was varied in these cases, they were all noted to be highly effective and unlikely to fail.

Other studies have similar implications. Research from Harvard University found that women with anorexia are more likely to exhibit self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol abuse, drug use, and attempting suicide. The researchers suggested that those who have lived with anorexia for extended periods of time become accustomed to pain and stop fearing death. Statistics indicate between 25% and 50% of people with anorexia engage in self-harm practices such as cutting or self-induced vomiting.

As Holm-Denoma concludes, “Anorexia is one of the most serious psychiatric problems our society faces. Our work shows even further that more needs to be done to prevent it.”

If you think you or someone you know may have anorexia or be at risk of attempting suicide, give us a call at (888) 298-4673. We can find the right treatment plan for you.

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