Study Suggests These Three BPD Symptoms Have Strongest Tie to Suicide Risk
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Updated Dec. 10, 2020.
The results of a new study suggested three often-overlooked borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms may have the strongest tie to suicide attempts. These symptoms include an unstable sense of self, chronic feelings of emptiness and frantic efforts to avoid abandonment.
The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, investigated several risk factors for suicide across four different personality disorder diagnoses. Researchers focused their report largely on borderline personality disorder because of its strong correlation with suicide attempts.
Over 10 years, participants reported information about their mental health. To analyze just BPD symptoms, researchers ruled complicating factors out of their data analysis such as childhood abuse. It’s important to keep in mind this research has some limitations. The study relied on self-reported information and most of the participants were white women.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that three less often considered BPD symptoms were associated with a high risk for suicide attempts: difficulty holding onto self-identity, constant feelings of emptiness and fear of abandonment.
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Borderline personality disorder is characterized by nine hallmark symptoms that range from fear of abandonment to periods of emotional intensity and impulsive behaviors. As a whole, BPD has one of the highest suicide rates among mental illnesses. As many as 80% of people diagnosed with the condition make at least one suicide attempt.
Previous research suggested intense emotional swings and impulsive behaviors also have a strong association with suicide attempts among people with BPD. The current study found these symptoms are still risk factors, perhaps more so in younger people. Over time, the strongest suicide risk factors may change — the other BPD symptoms shouldn’t be overlooked.
“In light of our knowledge that many individuals with BPD will remit from this disorder, the focus on individual criteria is especially important,” the authors wrote. “These too should be assessed and targeted, particularly because interventions … differ from those targeting affective instability and impulsivity.”
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