Objective: The authors compared the characteristics of suicide attempters with and without comorbid psychiatric and personality disorders to identify factors that explain the high suicide risk associated with psychiatric comorbidity.
Method: A representative group of 111 patients who had attempted suicide (72 female and 39 male) was assessed for psychiatric and personality disorders according to ICD-10 criteria. The characteristics of patients with both types of disorder were compared with those of patients without comorbid disorders. A semistructured interview schedule and standardized questionnaires were used to investigate patients' background characteristics, the circumstances of the suicide attempts, psychological characteristics, and outcome after 12-20 months.
Results: Comorbidity of psychiatric and personality disorders was present in 49 patients (44%). More patients with comorbid disorders had made previous suicide attempts (N=41 [84%] versus N=28 [45%]) and repeated attempts during the follow-up period (N=25 [51%] versus N=9 [15%]). Differences in precipitants and motives for the index episode were also found: patients with comorbid disorders were more depressed and hopeless, reported more episodes of aggression, were more impulsive, and had lower self-esteem and poorer problem-solving skills. Differences in self-esteem and problem-solving skills distinguished between the groups in a stepwise discriminant function analysis. More of the patients with comorbid disorders reported not being loved by their parents and parental suicidal behavior.
Conclusions: Suicide attempters with comorbid psychiatric and personality disorders show marked differences from those without both of these disorders. Comorbidity may contribute to greater suicide risk. Some of the characteristics of patients with comorbid disorders pose major clinical challenges that should be addressed in an effort to reduce suicide risk.