Suicide Attempts by Borderline Patients Must Be Taken Seriously

Borderline personality disorder is characterized by difficulty with interpersonal relationships, a tendency toward explosiveness and unstable moods. Those with borderline personality disorder tend to have difficulty regulating moods and thoughts, exhibit impulsive behaviors and struggle to get along with others.

Given their inability to maintain healthy relationships, borderline personality disorder patients also usually experience a high level of isolation and loneliness. Low moods may be made worse by the lack of a support system of friends and family. Often, friendships never become close and family members become wary of the explosive nature of the relationship.

Along with these serious difficulties, borderline personality disorder patients also have a high rate of suicidal ideation and attempts. A lack of sufficient support may mean that the suicide attempt is unexpected by friends and family members.

Study Finds Real Risk

A study appearing in Clinical Psychology provides new information about suicide among those with borderline personality disorder. The study results show that no matter how many times a borderline personality disorder patient appears to be insincere in their attempt to engage in suicidal behaviors, it is a real and serious risk.

The researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson surveyed 90 patients admitted to a hospital within 24 hours of attempting suicide. The study was based on the belief that borderline patients do not represent medically serious cases of attempted suicide.

When the researchers surveyed the patients, they found that there was no statistical difference in suicide intent, demographics, medical lethality or alcohol use problems among 62 patients with borderline features and 28 without any symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

Patients were defined as having borderline features if they scored at least 38 points on the Personality Assessment Inventory-Borderline Features Scale. The patients that had at least a 38 on this measurement tool were significantly more depressed and reported more problematic drug use (43.55 percent versus 10.71 percent), as well as more previous suicide attempts (70.97 percent versus 46.43 percent).

The study’s lead author Jalessa Perez presented the findings at the annual conference of the American Association of Suicidology. Perez explained that healthcare providers may often refer to suicide attempts by borderline patients as a “gesture,” effectively dismissing the risks to these patients.

Instead, says Perez, the borderline patient needs to be treated in as serious a way as those who do not present with any borderline features. The borderline patients may, in fact, need additional help. They are at a higher risk for depression and drug use and may need assistance and treatment in those areas.

Perez explains that when patients are dismissed after a suicide attempt, they are not receiving treatment for the symptoms that led to their suicide ideation.

The researchers applied the Center for Epidemiologic Studies for Depression Scale to the participants and found that the borderline group had a mean score of 22.93, suggesting that clinical depression may be present. Among the other patients, the mean score for the depression measurement tool was 15.43, which indicates that symptoms of depression are milder.

On the Beck Suicide Intent Scale, borderline patients also exhibited scores that may diminish the dismissal of borderline suicide attempts. Borderline personality disorder patients scored an average of 14.51 on the scale, compared to 12.96 points, which represents a non-significant difference. On the 8-point Medical Lethality Rating Scale, borderline personality disorder patients scored an average of 2.25 points compared to a non-borderline average of 2.39 on the scale.

The findings illustrate the need to take suicide attempts by borderline patients as a serious indicator that they may attempt suicide again. Borderline patients exhibit high levels of impulsivity, which may lead others to believe that they are acting in a dramatic way related to the disorder. However, the study’s findings show that suicidal ideation among borderline patients presents a significant risk.

In addition, patients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder have a high rate of co-occurring mental disorders. A suicide attempt may demonstrate the need for additional screening to be sure that all symptoms are being treated.

On June 18th, 2014, posted in: Mental Health by Tags: ,