Objective: The authors assessed lifetime and 6-month occurrence and phenomenology of self-injurious behavior in patients with eating disorders.
Method: Women (N=376) in inpatient treatment for an eating disorder (anorexia: N=119, bulimia: N=137, eating disorder not otherwise specified: N=120) were assessed for self-injurious behavior and completed the Traumatic Life Events Questionnaire, the Dissociative Experience Scale, the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale, and the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale.
Results: The lifetime rate of self-injurious behavior occurrence was 34.6%, with the highest rates found in subjects with eating disorder not otherwise specified (35.8%) and bulimia (34.3%); the 6-month rate of self-injurious behavior occurrence was 21.3%. Multivariate comparisons were computed for the factors of self-injurious behavior and diagnostic subgroup: self-injuring patients reported a significantly higher number of traumatic events, showed significantly higher dissociation scores, and exhibited significantly more obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Bulimic patients showed significantly higher impulsivity scores.
Conclusions: This study strongly supports the assumption that patients with eating disorders are at risk for self-injurious behavior and points to the necessity of a routine screening for self-injurious behavior as well as the development of a standardized questionnaire. Group comparisons point to the relevance of traumatic experiences and comorbid dissociative phenomenology.