Suicide risk linked to extreme exercise in bulimic individuals

Exercise and BulimiaA study recently performed in the U.S. state of Ohio, has discovered a potential link between instances of extreme levels of exercise and suicide in bulimia sufferers. This shocking correlation sheds light on a new possible symptom that may be an indicator of extreme mental issues related to the disorder.


The initial study performed was based around a pool of over two hundred bulimics meeting either the partial or entire criteria for DSM-IV diagnosis of bulimia. In the results of this study, researchers have discovered a worrying connection between what was termed over exercise – extreme levels of exertion used as a drastic weight and body control measure, going beyond healthy norms for exercise as a means to maintain the body, lose weight or increase fitness.


These instances of hard exercise were found to be major early indicators of later bulimic activity, commonly purging, fasting and forced vomiting. In a follow on study it was found that the occurrence of extreme levels of exercise predicted an “acquired capability of suicide” – classified as a lack of fear or concern over lethal levels of self-injury.  A further study after this found that as over exercise increased the pain threshold in individuals, it may decrease the individuals fear of death, potentially leading the person in question towards suicide.  Researchers are quoted as stating "These results may help explain the increased rate of suicidal behaviour displayed by people with bulimia nervosa, and given these findings, an important treatment target for individuals with bulimia nervosa who are engaging in over-exercise may be to teach healthy exercise."


This new connection between extreme exercise and the possibility of those suffering from bulimia may be useful as an early warning sign of serious mental imbalance in individuals suffering from the disorder, potentially saving lives and improving chances of early recovery. If this can be used as a method of diagnosing bulimia in individuals, or as an indicator of progression to more extreme suffering of the condition all will benefit as time and funding can be more accurately allocated, resulting in more lives saved and more quality of life restored or protected.

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