Serotonin Levels and Self-Destructiveness

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
September/October 2001 Volume 12, Number 5
©2001 Gürze Books

Patients with bulimia nervosa have been found to have changes in brain serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) activity, and to have an increased propensity for risk of suicide and self-injury. Because of the inverse association between 5-HT activity and the potential for self-harm, Canadian researchers recently examined the connection between 5-HT status and self-destructiveness in normal patients and those with bulimia nervosa

Structured interviews and self-report questionnaires were used to assess 40 bulimic women and 21 women with normal eating patterns (Psychiatry Res 2001;103:15). The researchers evaluated the following: a history of parasuicidal actions or self-injury, and problems in mood or impulse regulation. They then tested both groups to establish 5-HT function and serial prolactin and cortisol responses after administration of a partial 5-HT agonist, meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (m-CCP).

In comparison to nonbulimic women, the bulimic women had blunting of serial prolactin and cortisol responses after receiving m-CPP. This was most marked among bulimic women who had a history of self-destructiveness. The authors suggest that some serotonergic anomalies reported in BN patients, such as reduced neuroendocrine response after m-CPP, may be characteristic of persons showing a clear-cut potential for self-destructiveness.

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