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Keywords:

  • eating-disordered patients;
  • rejection of life;
  • death preoccupation

Abstract

Objectives

To investigate eating- disordered (ED) patients’ attraction to life and death.

Method

Thirty-two anorexic and 37 bulimic patients were matched by age, sex, and socioeconomic status to 37 matched normal controls. Participants were administered the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the Multiattitude Suicidal Tendency Scale (MASS), and the Selflessness Scale.

Results

ED patients scored significantly higher on the Selflessness Scale than normal controls. They are less attracted to and more repulsed by life than normal controls. In death variables, attraction to or repulsion by, no significant differences were found. These results were not influenced by depression. The higher the tendency of ED patients to ignore their needs and serve other's needs (high Selflessness scores), the higher their tendency to be attracted to death and to be less attracted to life.

Discussion

ED patients, rather than dwelling on death, reject life. Theoretically, the findings support differentiation of death preoccupation to several components. Clinically, the findings might direct clinicians to help patients reduce their “self-guilt,” that is, guilt of promoting their own interests. © 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 31: 43–48, 2002.