New study links body dysmorphic disorder to suicides

By Kyra Hall

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) has long been linked to destructive behaviors in its sufferers. It lies at the root of eating disorders and plastic surgery addictions. BDD causes the sufferer to believe their body is flawed and disgusting. Though it takes many forms, one of the most common BDD variations is one that causes the sufferer to believe that they are severely overweight even though they are not. This can lead to bulimia nervosa, a disorder in which a person will binge eat before purging by vomiting, talking laxatives, or another means, or anorexia nervosa, in which a person severely limits their caloric intake, effectively starving their body.

Suicide is high among those with body dysmorphic disorder. 75 percent of BDD suffers say that they feel life is not worth living, or said that they have considered suicide. Nearly 25 percent of BDD victims have attempted suicide at least once. A new study performed by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Auburn University found that BDD sufferers who utilized restrictive dieting were twice as likely to commit suicide as others with BDD. The researchers theorized that because of the pain-tolerance required to starve oneself is so high, a person might also have a high enough pain tolerance to carry out a painful suicide attempt. The study only covered attempted suicide, so whether or not the rate of suicides carried out by BDD victims that starve themselves is also higher than it is among other BDD sufferers is not yet known.

No other BDD-associated behavior was as strong an indicator for suicide as restriction of food intake. The public should take note of this study and monitor friends and family who show signs of dangerous crash dieting. Not only does restricted food intake lead to malnourishment and physical damage, it has now been linked to severe, even fatal, psychological side effects. If you suspect that you or someone you care about is at risk of a BDD-related suicide, contact a psychiatric professional before it is too late.

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