Eating Disorders and Suicide

  • Antonio Preti
  • Maria Valeria Camboni
  • Paola Miotto


The definition of eating disorders (EDs) is conferred to a set of behavioral disorders characterized by disordered eating and body dissatisfaction, with a high level of psychological distress related to eating behavior and high comorbidity with other mental disorders, principally anxiety, mood, and substance-use disorders, all representing important risk factors for suicide.

Suicide is the main cause of death in Anorexia Nervosa (AN) beside the medical complications of the disorder. In recent decades the risk of dying by suicide has decreased in AN, principally because of better identification of the cases requiring treatment and the establishment of specialized units of care. Overall, the risk of suicide in Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is greatly lower than in AN, despite a comparable prevalence of the predictors of completed suicide as suicidal gestures, including self-injury behavior and suicide attempts. However, it is incorrect to consider the attempts with a low lethal potential as less dangerous behavior, since people using this strategy also tend to repeat the attempt, and some patients do not appreciate the intrinsic lethality of the method used, or may overlook the real ability of rescue by their social network. Very few studies exist on suicidal behavior in eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS), including binge eating disorder (BED), despite these disorders prevailing in the community and in clinical samples.

Suicidal behavior cannot be predicted easily, but it can be prevented essentially by improving the identification of the cases in need of care and by treating comorbidity aggressively, principally depression, substance abuse, and impulsivity-related personality disorders. Eating disturbances are frequent in the general population, particularly among women and adolescents: since there is evidence that poor diet associates to suicidal behavior, appropriate nutritional advice could correct those abnormalities that impact constitutional risk factors for mood and impulse dyscontrol disorders, the main clinical risk factors for suicide. EDs are frequently overlooked as a reason for suicide in adolescents and the young: the investigation on suicidal tendencies in young people might benefit from the inclusion of measures of EDs to prevent the worst outcomes of minor psychological distress. There is sparse evidence on the effectiveness of treatment to prevent suicidal behavior in patients with EDs, and on the role of stress and nutrition in suicidal behavior. Studies on these topics are advisable, due to the complex links between stress and eating disturbances on the one hand and suicidal behavior on the other side.


Major Depressive Disorder Anorexia Nervosa Suicidal Ideation Eating Disorder Suicidal Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Anorexia nervosa


Anorexia nervosa, binge-eating/purging type


Anorexia nervosa, restricting type


Bipolar disorder


Binge eating disorder


Body mass index


Bulimia nervosa


Bulimia nervosa, nonpurging type


Bulimia nervosa, purging type


Confidence interval


Cortical releasing factor


Cerebrospinal fluid


Deliberate self-harm


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, IV edition, Transitory Revision; the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association


Eating disorder not otherwise specified


Eating disorders


European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders


5-Hydroxyindolacetic acid, the major metabolite of serotonin


5-Hydroxy-tryptophan, or serotonin


Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis


Major depressive disorder




National Comorbidity Survey Replication


Personality disorder


Self-injury behavior


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors


Substance use disorder


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonio Preti
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maria Valeria Camboni
  • Paola Miotto
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CagliariCagliariItaly
  2. 2.Centro Medico GenneruxiCagliariItaly

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