The Link Between Binge Eating and Suicide
New research suggests that people with binge eating may be at increased risk.
Posted June 29, 2018
Could people struggling with binge eating be at an increased risk for suicide? That's what a new study suggests. While it has long been recognized that people with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are at increased risk for suicidal behaviors, little has been known about the risk for people struggling with binge eating and binge eating disorder (BED)—until now.
A recent study by Brown et al (2018) published in BMC Psychiatry suggests that people struggling with binge eating are at an increased risk of suicide, with those at higher weights having the highest risk. The study examined data from 14,497 participants in a large, diverse, nationally representative US database (the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiologic Surveys) and found that among participants with a history of binge eating (approximately 4% of the sample), 1/3 (34.2%) reported ever thinking about suicide, 1/5 (18.6%) had a history of attempted suicide, and 10.1% experienced suicidality in the past year.
Results were similar for those with a history of binge eating and those who met full criteria for BED, indicating that the risks of subclinical binge eating may be similar to the full-spectrum disorder.
Binge eating and BED were significantly associated with lifetime suicidality, and BMI did not explain this relationship. The relationship between binge eating and suicidality was stronger for women than for men. Results did indicate a significant interaction between BMI and binge eating on the likelihood of suicidality; meaning that those with binge eating who were at a higher BMI were at higher risk for suicidality.
Unfortunately, this study did not examine the role of weight stigma so we do not know what impact this has in the relationship between binge eating, BMI, and suicidality. Prior research suggests that weight stigma increases the risk of eating disorders and disordered eating, including binge eating and BED, and I imagine it also plays a role in the increased risk of suicidality for people struggling with binge eating who live in larger bodies. What do you think?
Alexis Conason is a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of overeating disorders, body image dissatisfaction, psychological issues related to bariatric surgery, and sexual issues. She is the founder of The Anti-Diet Plan (sign up for her free 30 day course). Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Brown KL, LaRose JG, and Mezuk B. (2018) The Relationship between Body Mass Index, Binge Eating Disorder, and Suicidality. BMC Psychiatry, 18: 196