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Over half of individuals with eating disorders experience suicidal ideation at some point in their lives, yet few longitudinal studies have examined predictors of ideation in this at-risk group. Moreover, prospective research has focused on relatively distal or trait-level factors that are informative for distinguishing who is most at risk but not when. Little is known about more proximal or state-level risk factors that fluctuate within an individual, which is critical for determining when a person is most likely to engage in suicidal behaviors.
Women (N = 97) receiving treatment for their eating disorder completed questionnaires weekly to assess suicidal ideation and interpersonal constructs (i.e. perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness) theorized to be proximal predictors of suicidal desire. Longitudinal multilevel models were conducted to examine both within- and between-person predictors of suicidal ideation across 12 weeks of treatment.
Statistically significant within-person effects for burdensomeness (β = 0.06; p < 0.001) indicate that when individuals have greater feelings of burdensomeness compared to their own average, they also experience higher suicidal ideation. We did not find any significant influence of thwarted belongingness or the interaction between burdensomeness and belongingness on suicidal ideation.
This study was the first to examine dynamic associations between interpersonal constructs and suicidal ideation in individuals with eating disorders. Results are only partially consistent with the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide and suggest that short-term changes in burdensomeness may impact suicidal behavior in individuals with eating disorders.