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Dissociative Disorders and Suicidality in Psychiatric Outpatients

Foote, Brad MD*; Smolin, Yvette MD; Neft, Deborah I. PhD*; Lipschitz, Deborah MD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: January 2008 - Volume 196 - Issue 1 - p 29-36
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31815fa4e7
Original Article

Although it is common for patients with dissociative disorders to report a history of suicide attempts, there is very little data systematically comparing suicidality in patients with dissociative disorders versus patients without these disorders. The subjects in our study were 231 patients consecutively admitted to an inner-city, hospital-based outpatient psychiatric clinic. Eighty-two of these patients completed structured interviews for dissociative disorders, borderline personality disorder, and trauma history (dissociative disorders interview schedule) and for posttraumatic stress disorder and substance abuse (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV). Patients receiving a dissociative disorder diagnosis were compared with nondissociative patients on measures of self-harm and suicidality. Presence of a dissociative disorder was strongly associated with all measures of self-harm and suicidality. When we focused on patients with a history of multiple suicide attempts, significant associations were found between several diagnoses (dissociative disorder; borderline personality disorder; posttraumatic stress disorder; alcohol abuse/dependence) and multiple suicide attempter status. When these diagnoses were entered in a logistic regression, a highly significant association remained for dissociative diagnosis and multiple suicide attempter status (odds ratio, 15.09; 95% confidence interval, 2.67–85.32; p = 0.002). Dissociative disorders are commonly overlooked in studies of suicidality, but in this population they were the strongest predictor of multiple suicide attempter status.

*Department of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York; †Department of Psychiatry, New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York; and ‡Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, November 6, 2005, Toronto, Canada.

The authors report no financial affiliation relevant to the subject of this article.

Send reprint requests to Brad Foote, MD, Klau-1 Psychiatric OPD, Montefiore Medical Center, 111 E 210th Street, Bronx, NY 10467. E-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.