Identifying bridge pathways between eating disorder symptoms and suicidal ideation across three samples

April R. Smith, Lauren N. Forrest, Mary E. Duffy, Payton J. Jones, Thomas E. Joiner, Emily M. Pisetsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


People with eating disorders (ED) have elevated rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. We used network analysis to identify symptoms that bridge EDs and suicidality, as well as central symptoms within the network, among 3 groups of adults. Participants were either (a) clinical psychiatric outpatients without current EDs (n = 538), (b) clinical psychiatric outpatients with a lifetime suicide attempt (n = 166), or (c) people with current EDs (n = 238). Networks were jointly estimated among groups. Within the Suicide Attempt and ED groups, interoceptive deficits and pain tolerance emerged as important bridge symptoms, whereas feeling inadequate was an important bridge symptom in the Clinical Outpatient group. Within all groups, having thoughts of killing oneself and feeling inadequate were central, meaning that they were most strongly connected to all other symptoms in the networks. Further, results indicate that a similar problem-interoceptive impairment-may link ED symptoms and suicidality both within people with EDs and people with suicide attempts. Overall, these findings are consistent with the notion that EDs and suicidality may bidirectionally influence one another, possibly through shared mechanisms (e.g., interoceptive impairment) or direct pathways (e.g., suicidal ideation being strongly connected to ED symptoms), though prospective work is needed to test these possibilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-736
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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