Purpose of review
This article reviews literature published over the period January 2004–May 2005 on suicidal behaviour and self-harm in personality disorders.
Studies have confirmed that personality disorders and their co-morbidity with other psychiatric conditions are risk factors for both fatal and nonfatal suicidal behaviours, and self-mutilation. Negative life events, childhood sexual abuse, difficulties in social functioning, deficits in future-directed thinking and time perception, as well as familial and neurocognitive factors may be related to increased suicide risk in individuals with borderline and other personality disorders. Findings seem to confirm that suicidality and self-injurious behaviour are efficient DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder. Out of several psychosocial and pharmacological interventions for treating suicidality in personality disorders, only one randomized, controlled study has recently been published. Medico-legal concerns related to the clinical management of chronically suicidal patients, including hospitalization and alternative treatment approaches, are also discussed.
Although recent studies have contributed to the theoretical knowledge and clinical practice, there are unsettled questions that should be addressed in the future. More randomized, controlled trials evaluating the efficacy of interventions in suicidal individuals with personality disorders should be conducted. As the majority of studies conducted to date have concentrated on borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder, the prevalence and risk factors for suicidal behaviours and self-mutilation in other personality disorders require further clarification. The introduction of unified nomenclature related to suicidal behaviours and self-mutilation would facilitate comparability of results across studies.