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COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Characteristics of suicide attempts of patients with major depressive episode and borderline personality disorder: a comparative study

P H Soloff, K G Lynch, T M Kelly, K M Malone, J J Mann
American Journal of Psychiatry 2000, 157 (4): 601-8
10739420

OBJECTIVE: Suicidal behavior is highly prevalent in borderline personality disorder and major depressive episode, although the characteristics of suicide attempts in the two disorders are believed to differ. Comorbidity of borderline personality disorder and major depressive episode may obscure characteristics of suicide attempts that are uniquely related to the psychopathology of each disorder. We compared suicidal behavior in patients with borderline personality disorder, major depressive episode, and borderline personality disorder plus major depressive episode to determine whether characteristics of suicide attempts differed between groups and if aspects of core psychopathology predicted specific attempt characteristics.

METHOD: Eighty-one inpatients with borderline personality disorder, including 49 patients with borderline personality disorder plus major depressive episode, were compared to 77 inpatients with major depressive episode alone on measures of depressed mood, hopelessness, impulsive aggression, and suicidal behavior, including lifetime number of attempts, degree of lethal intent, objective planning, medical damage, and degree of violence of suicide methods.

RESULTS: No significant differences were found in the characteristics of suicide attempts between patients with borderline personality disorder and those with major depressive episode. However, patients with both disorders had the greatest number of suicide attempts and the highest level of objective planning. An increase in either impulsive aggression or hopelessness or a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder predicted a greater number of attempts. Hopelessness predicted lethal intent in all three groups and predicted objective planning in the group with both disorders. Medical damage resulting from the most serious lifetime suicide attempt was predicted by number of attempts.

CONCLUSIONS: Comorbidity of borderline personality disorder with major depressive episode increases the number and seriousness of suicide attempts. Hopelessness and impulsive aggression independently increase the risk of suicidal behavior in patients with borderline personality disorder and in patients with major depressive episode.

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