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Marked differences were found between the reasons chosen to explain overdoses by the closest relatives or friends (the 'significant others') of 34 self-poisoners and those reasons chosen by the self-poisoners themselves. Whilst 41% of the latter claimed suicidal intent, in only one case was the significant other in agreement. The significant others were more likely to attribute manipulative reasons, commonly viewing the overdoses as directed at themselves, but the two groups agreed that the overdoses were often a means of alleviating distress. As well as evoking sympathy, the overdoses often caused the significant others to feel considerable guilt and anger. Discrepancies in the way self-poisoners and significant others interpret overdoses, and the strong feelings that overdoses evoke in the latter, should be considered during assessment and treatment of overdose patients.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date





481 - 485


Adolescent, Adult, Anger, Attitude to Health, Family, Female, Guilt, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Machiavellianism, Male, Middle Aged, Poisoning, Suicide, Attempted