Restrictive Eating and Risk for Suicidal Behavior: An Application of the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide
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Though the relationship between methods of dieting and suicidal behavior has been established (e.g., Crow et al., 2008), existing studies have not examined mechanisms underlying this relationship. This study sought to enhance understanding of this relationship using the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide (IPTS; Joiner, 2005). We compared a sample of selected undergraduates who endorsed recently engaging in one dieting method (i.e., restrictive eating; n = 99) to control undergraduates endorsing no lifetime use of dietary methods (n = 94). We hypothesized that, statistically controlling for presence of other non-restrictive dietary methods, the restrictive eating group would have great acquired capability for suicide (ACS) and higher likelihood of suicide attempt history, and that no group differences would emerge on other IPTS constructs or suicidal ideation (SI). Contrary to hypotheses, no differences emerged between groups on ACS, and frequency of restrictive eating within the dietary restrictor group was not significantly associated with ACS. Consistent with hypotheses, dietary restrictors were more likely to have suicide attempt history, and groups had comparable levels of other IPTS constructs and SI. Though results were not entirely consistent with hypotheses, the current study represents the first attempt at isolating and examining a specific dietary method using the IPTS. Results suggest that, in isolation, restrictive eating may not be directly contributing to risk for suicide.