Friday, February 29, 2008

Anorexia and suicide

This week, a new study out of the University of Vermont was published about anorexia and the intent of suicide. While it is a well established fact that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder of which suicide is particularly high, how seriously is it really taken? Suicidal acts have often been considered a call for help, a wish not really to die but to end the pain. Or for those who have succeeded, a call for help gone wrong. In this study, researchers looked at nine cases of anorexic women who committed suicide through extreme measures--measures where the likelihood to die was insurmountable despite having anorexia. Researchers concluded that their intent was to die by a quick means.

Although I think this is a unique set of research in this field, and I understand where the researchers are headed, I have slight problems with it too besides that the sample size is small. It's either that people do not hear about these types of cases, ie eating disorder individuals hanging themselves, setting themselves on fire, jumping in front of moving objects, etc. which were outlined in the study, or that these are the extreme portion of cases. Recently, we heard about the death of Polly Williams from the documentary "Thin" by an overdose of sleeping pills. Then several years ago, there was Anna Westin who died from an overdose of anti-depressants if I remember correctly. Both of these were more well known cases and used more common methods of suicide. While I agree that overdosing is not a guarantee for success of suicide, I think the intent is still there for many sufferers.

The one thing I do think is very important out of this type of research is to recognize the seriousness of suicidal tendencies among those with eating disorders. Then, perhaps, we can help prevent these type of tragedies, or better yet actually get health insurance to cover treatment costs.

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