Background: The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between body image and suicidal tendencies in anorexia nervosa (AN). Methods: Three groups of hospitalized female adolescents – nonsuicidal AN, suicidal psychiatric and nonsuicidal psychiatric patients, as well as a community control group with no psychiatric disturbances were compared with regard to suicidal tendencies (in the form of attitudes to life and death), body image and experience, depression and anxiety. Results: The AN and suicidal patients showed less attraction to but more repulsion by life, and more attraction to and less repulsion by death compared with the other two groups. The AN and suicidal patients were also different from either one or both control groups in showing more negative attitudes and feelings towards their bodies, lower sensitivity to body clues, less body control, and elevated depression and anxiety. These between-group differences in suicidal tendencies were retained after controlling for age, body mass index, the different body image dimensions, anxiety and depression. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that female AN inpatients with no evidence of overt suicidal behavior demonstrate elevated suicidal tendencies that are similar to those of suicidal psychiatric inpatients. These self-destructive tendencies are highly associated with a pervasive sense of disturbance of body image and experience.
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