'Binge exercising' predicts suicidal behavior in people with eating disorders
Eating disorder patients who engage in excessive exercise are more likely to show suicidal behavior, a new study shows.
Four separate studies from the same researchers at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, show that too much exercise can actually be a more dangerous habit than previously thought. In the first study, it was the only factor that had a consistent relationship with suicide attempts or suicidal behavior.
The second and third studies, which analyzed more than 600 college students, found that over-exercise had a significant relationship with acquired capability for suicide (ACS). And in the fourth study, researchers found that the diminished ability to feel pain was directly linked to the relationship between ACS and exercise "bingeing."
One-third of bulimics will attempt suicide
Researchers estimate that about one in three women with bulimia nervosa will attempt suicide. Even after adjusting the studies for other "painful behaviors," the ACS and exercise link was still strong.
"These results suggest that over-exercise can be hazardous," the researchers wrote in Psychiatry Research.
The ability to complete a suicide attempt is largely based on an individual's tolerance of self-inflicted pain - a "skill" that some people might learn through over-use and abuse of the body through vigorous exercise. Exercising too often and too long were factors that predicted ACS.
And while the results are not conclusive, the team says, they do indicated that teaching "healthy exercise" habits to individuals with bulimia is paramount - especially since over-exercise has also been linked to high relapse rates in bulimic patients.