Suicide and Eating Disorders – It’s serious

As I sit here writing, I feel numb and slightly shaky. My hands sweaty and my visions blurry. I just received an informing email that the daughter of my child’s teacher had committed suicide at just 17 years old. I immediately flash back to my own attempt in 2009, but it doesn’t feel the same. My heart bleeds for this family and for this young woman whose pain felt inescapable. I’ve been there. I didn’t want to die; I wanted the pain to stop. Did she feel that same way? Did she have those same thoughts?

There was no method mentioned and no claim of an eating disorder, and yet, I began to think about the mortality rate of individuals with eating disorders by suicide.

Only second to opioid overdose, I know from reading that eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness. According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), “10,200 deaths each year are a direct result of an eating disorder- that’s one death every 52 minutes.
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, for individuals with a history of anorexia, they found the prevalence rate of suicide attempts was 24.9%. For those with a history of binge eating disorder it is 22.9%. While those are shocking numbers, the suicide rate for those with a history of bulimia is 31.4 %.

What to watch for: Warning signs

• Feeling like a burden
• Being isolated
• Increased anxiety
• Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• Increased substance use
• Giving away belongings
• Looking for a way to access lethal means
• Increased anger or rage
• Extreme mood swings
• Expressing hopelessness
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Talking or posting about wanting to die
• Making plans for suicide

How to support someone considering suicide

• Be direct, ask if they are thinking about killing themselves.
• Without judgement, listen to them.
• Until you can get further help, stay with the individual.
• Remove objects that could be used in an attempted suicide.

Call for help

• 988 is the 3 digit code that routes callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Eating Disorders - It's Not About the Food

By Kelly Lopez

If it’s not about the food, what is it really about?

The eating disorder serves a function, it does a job. Despite the problems an eating disorder creates, it is an effort to cope, shield against, communicate, and solve problems. Behaviors may be a way to establish a sense of power or control, self-worth, strength, and containment. Bringing may be used to numb pain. Purging may be a way to release emotions. When one cannot cope in healthy ways, adaptive functions (behaviors) are created to ensure a sense of safety, security, and control.
According to Carolyn Costin*, some of the “adaptive functions that eating disorder behaviors commonly serve are”:
It’s not about the food, it’s a way of coping with low self-esteem, negative emotions, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, unstable home, difficulty resolving conflict and much more.
*Costin, Carolyn. The Eating Disorder Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Causes, Treatments and Prevention of Eating Disorders. 3rd. edition, McGraw Hill, 2007.
Fuller, Kristen. “Eating Disorders: It’s Not All about Food.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 Mar. 2017