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Could Binge Eating Predict Teen Suicide Risk?

Update Date: Jul 22, 2013 02:28 PM EDT
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Could binge eating predict suicidal behavior? A new study reveals that African American women who binge eat are more likely to report suicide attempts.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that African American girls who experience symptoms of depression and anxiety are more likely to display binge eating behaviors.  Researchers said this is troubling because these behaviors put them at higher risk for turning their emotions inward or displaying internalizing symptoms such as suicide.

Many girls and women experience eating behavior problems, with binge eating or eating large amounts of food in a short period of time and feeling out of control while eating, being the most frequently occurring eating disorder. Previous studies reveal that this behavior can lead to shame, embarrassment, distress and an attempt to conceal it.

The study published in the journal Prevention Science looked into how depressive and anxious symptoms may be precursors to binge eating behaviors and suicidal outcomes in 313 African American females.  Researchers fallowed the women for 11 years from the age of six to 17 years old.

Researchers conducted teacher, parent and child interviews and examined levels of anxiety, depression, satisfaction with physical appearance and eating behaviors.  Researchers also noted those who had reported a suicide attempt during the study period.

The findings revealed that women who demonstrated dissatisfaction with their physical appearance were more likely to develop depressive and anxious symptoms in adolescence. These women were also more likely to report binge eating behaviors, and adolescent girls with more binge eating behaviors are more likely to attempt 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. Our results also support the importance of developing prevention programs that are culturally relevant to individuals," lead researcher Dr. Rashelle Musci and colleagues wrote in the study.

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