Suicide risk increased with eating disorders

young woman

A new study shows that African American girls who experience depressive and anxious symptoms are often dissatisfied with their bodies and more likely to display binge eating behaviors.

The study by Dr. Rashelle Musci and colleagues from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, John Hopkins University, states that these behaviors put these young women at risk for turning their emotions inward and internalizing their symptoms, leading to destructive behaviors like suicide.

Shame and embarrassment of eating disorders

Western culture is well-known for fixating on beauty and appearance. It is not uncommon for many girls and women to have eating disorders resulting from unhappiness with the appearance of their bodies.

One of the most common problems is binge-eating. This behavior includes eating large amounts of food in a short amount of time accompanied by a feeling of being out of control and unable to stop. Sometimes, but not always, the young women will self-induce vomiting to compensate for the overeating. This behavior creates shame, embarrassment, distress and then the need to conceal it all to appear normal and healthy.

Young African American girls studied

Musci and her team investigated how depression and anxiety may be precursors to binge eating and suicidal outcomes in more than 300 young black women, whom they followed for 11 years. They were young females, aged 6 to 17 years.

Researchers interviewed teachers and parents as well as the girls in the study. They detailed stress levels, anxiety, depression, satisfaction with appearance and eating behaviors. They also noted suicide attempts.

Eating disorders linked to depression and suicide

Over the course of the study, the young women demonstrated dissatisfaction with their physical appearance which, in turn, predicted the development of depressive symptoms. These symptoms predicted binge eating behaviors, and the girls with more eating disorders reported more thoughts and threats of suicide.

“The relationships found in this study offer prevention scientists a unique opportunity to target individuals at high risk of psychiatric problems by intervening in the case of binge eating problems,” stated the report published in Prevention Science. “Our results also support the importance of developing prevention programs that are culturally relevant to individuals.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Prevention Science


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