Suicide Attempt Lethality in Bipolar Disorder

Bridget Veronica Claflin, Fordham University


Bipolar disorder is associated with greater suicide risk compared to major depressive disorder, but it is not clear what characteristics of this disorder contribute to increased risk. Comparison of individuals with bipolar disorder and unipolar major depressive disorder who have attempted suicide may provide some insight into this risk. The current study examined 426 currently depressed, unmedicated patients with a history of suicide attempt, 108 of whom had a primary diagnosis of bipolar disorder and 318 a primary diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Groups were compared on their degree of suicide intent, severity (lethality) of their attempts, and the interaction between the two, as well as the contribution to the prediction of past attempt lethality of other characteristics that distinguish the groups. Groups were comparable on most demographic measures but differed on a number of key clinical characteristics, such as levels of impulsiveness and aggression, past substance abuse history, history of being abused as a child, and degree of current hopelessness. These groups did not differ in their degree of past suicide intent, but lethality was significantly greater in bipolar patients. Regression analyses revealed that diagnosis of bipolar disorder contributed to the prediction of lethality, even when accounting for other predictors that were associated with lethality. The diagnosis of bipolar disorder appears to carry a higher risk for more lethal suicide attempts that is not fully explained by other clinical factors that differentiate it from major depressive disorder.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Claflin, Bridget Veronica, "Suicide Attempt Lethality in Bipolar Disorder" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29169065.