The Connection: What to Know About Suicide and Eating Disorders from The Connection: What to Know About Suicide and Eating Disorders

The Connection: What to Know About Suicide and Eating Disorders

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The Connection: What to Know About Suicide and Eating Disorders

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Eating disorders (EDs) can be part of a larger complex mental health issue, as there can be a high tendency for the simultaneous presence of another chronic condition in a patient. Not only do eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, but 30 percent of anorexic patients and 23 percent of bulimics reported a history of suicidal attempts, according to Eating Disorders Review. Depression has a higher co-occurrence with both anorexia and bulimia, Dr. Stephanie Setliff, Medical Director of Eating Recovery Center, Dallas, says. 

Increased risk of suicide

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“Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people with anorexia nervosa, and a major cause among people with EDs,” according to Dr. Stephanie Setliff from the Eating Recovery Center in Dallas. See: How is Binge Eating Really Harming You?

ED and depression often co-occur

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Depression and eating disorders co-occur quite frequently, Dr. Setliff says. Anorexia nervosa specifically looks a lot like depression in patients. “They do not have a lot of energy and are avoidant, sleeping, and feel hopeless as they become sicker.” Depression often starts before the ED. See: Ways Being Active Can Help with Depression

Common signs and symptoms

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Most people with an ED are experts at hiding it. Common signs are changes in their eating habits, being unusually focused on healthy eating, cutting out whole food groups, intense desire to exercise in a rigid way, hoarding and hiding food, a new preoccupation with food and calories, Dr. Setliff says. See: 12 “Healthy” Habits You Need to Break Right Now

Weight obsession

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Weight loss or a failure to continue to gain weight consistently with their growth chart can be a sign that a person has an ED, Dr. Setliff says. Comments about feeling fat even after losing a few pounds, finding excuses to avoid family meals, having primary concern with being healthy can indicate that depression. See: Most Extreme Weight Loss Methods

Isolation

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All of the signs and symptoms that a patient is suffering from depression and an eating disorder are usually accompanied by increased irritability and increased isolation at home, Dr. Setliff says. Patients feel ashamed, humiliated, and embarrassed because they think there is something wrong with them. See: Surprising Signs of Mood Disorders

How does it start?

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Eating disorders and depression tend to occur together over time. “Sometimes in certain circumstances, like immediately after a huge traumatic event, an eating disorder can occur quickly, seemingly overnight,” Dr. Setliff says. See: Signs and Symptoms of Obesity That You Should Be Aware Of

Risk factors for eating disorders

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A short risk factor list, not at all totally comprehensive, according to Dr. Setliff, includes picky eating as a child, being female, extreme weight loss, dieting, being bullied, reading teen fashion magazines, our culture’s obsession with thinness, youth, and beauty, body dissatisfaction, and depression or anxiety. See: 15 Ways to Tell if You’re Suffering From an Anxiety Disorder

Causes

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There is no scientific evidence explaining what exactly causes a binge eating disorder (BED). Social pressure for thinness, bullying, low self-worth and stress can contribute, Dr. Setliff says. Genetics play a part, but are not the sole predictor. See: What Genetic Traits Reveal About Your Health

Risk factors for depression

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They include relationship conflicts, poor coping skills, hormone changes during puberty, and a chronic medical illness, Dr. Setliff says. “A couple of interesting risk factors in depression in child and adolescents are low birth rate, as well as maternal age younger than 18 years.” See: Warning Signs That You Are Unhealthy

Age and vulnerability

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“Roughly 90%of all eating disorders begin between the ages of 11 and 25,” Dr. Setliff says. Ten million women and 1 million men suffer from anorexia and bulimia.” About 20 million people have BED. Half of teen girls and 30%of teen boys use unhealthy weight controlling behaviors, she adds. See: 10 Things that Happen to Your Body When You Skip a Meal

By the numbers

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Dr. Setliff says that, according to statistics, a quarter of college aged women engage in binging and purging; 42% of female athletes competing in aesthetic sports engage in eating disorder behaviors, 46%of 9-11 year olds are often on diets; 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had dieted with many progressing to partial or full eating disorders. See: 20 Surprising Tips for Eating Healthy

Boys and men can also have an ED

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“One out of every four pre-teen kids with anorexia is a boy,” Dr. Setliff says. “Binge eating disorder affects females and males about equally,” she adds. See: The Scientific Reasons It's Harder for Women to Lose Weight

What ED and depression feel like?

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Most people who develop EDs feel  they are not good enough and don’t matter, as they become obsessed with perfectionism, and underlying is often depression and anxiety,” Dr. Setliff says. Their low self-worth can lead to a full blown depressive disorderSee: 12 Diseases Doctors Most Often Misdiagnose

Treatment

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Cognitive behavioral therapy is a powerful and a widely accepted treatment for people with EDs combined with depression. The goal is to permanently change the way they perceive themselves, Dr. Setliff says. Mindfulness therapies are widely used, sometimes with meds. See: The Most Dangerous Legal Drugs

When is hospitalization necessary?

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Many patients need to be hospitalized in an inpatient or residential setting for treatment of their eating disorder,” Dr. Setliff says. “But it is important to note that a lot of patients are able to continue in an outpatient capacity as well.” See: How Exercise Can Help Treat Eating Disorders

Recovery rate

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About 30% of patients will be re-hospitalized, Dr. Setliff says. The number can vary depending on age of onset, type of ED, support in recovery, co-occurrence of depression, and length of illness. Up to 80% of patients who seek and receive treatment will recover, or go into remission, she adds. See: 15 Signs You May Be Suffering from Stress But Don’t Realize It

Relapse prevention

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Patients who do well tend to take their relapse prevention plan seriously, Dr. Setliff says. They and their loved ones are very aware that there are going to be times when they may try to revert to old eating habits. “They know […] and seek support when they feel they need it.” See: 10 Healthy Eating Obstacles (And How to Overcome Them)