Symptoms, Signs & Effects of Suicidal Ideation

Understanding Suicidal Ideation

Learn more about suicidal ideations

Suicidal ideation is defined as “thinking about, considering, or planning for suicide”. These unusual preoccupations with suicide can range from thoughts to laid-out, detailed plans. However, these thoughts do not end in the final act of killing oneself. While the majority of individuals with suicidal thoughts do not carry through with them, some individuals may make suicide attempts, which is why this is not a topic to be taken lightly. In some circumstances, suicidal thoughts are a cry for help and specifically designed to fail or be discovered, while others are carefully planned to succeed.

Not all individuals who are experiencing thoughts of suicide actually want to die, most just want relief from the physical and emotional pain they are dealing with. These men and women view suicide as a last resort attempt to end the severe emotional pain that is causing significant distress in their lives. Due to the severe distress they are experiencing, individuals who are thinking about suicide see no other way to end their suffering. Additionally, oftentimes people who are entertaining the idea of suicide do not ask for help, but that does not mean that they do not need help.

If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts reach out to a family member or friend for help. Do not keep these suicidal feelings to yourself. Getting help for suicidal ideation can help you deal with the emotional pain that you have been struggling with. There are other ways of working through issues that are causing you distress, suicide is not the answer.


Statistics of suicidal ideations

The World Health Organization estimates that about 1 million people a year die by suicide. In 2001, over 30,000 people living in the United States died by suicide. Suicide continues to be within the top 10 leading causes of death in individuals between the ages of 10 and 64 years of age. In 2002, it was estimated that over 130,000 individuals were admitted to the hospital in the United States following suicide attempts. Ethically, the highest rates of suicide in the U.S. occur in non-Hispanic whites and Native Americans. The lowest rates are non-Hispanic blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideation & co-occurring disorder

Many individuals who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings will also be struggling with another mental health conditions. The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Personality disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Substance abuse and alcohol disorders
  • Paranoia


Causes of suicidal ideations

There is no one factor that is pinpointed as a direct cause for suicidal ideation. It’s generally believed that the causes for suicidal thoughts are the result of a number of different factors working together. The most common causes are thought to be:

Genetic: Many of the mental illnesses that cause the development of suicidal feelings, such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD and OCD, have a genetic component. Those that have first-degree relatives who have struggled with suicidal behaviors or thoughts are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts.

Brain Chemistry: Many mental illnesses cause decreased levels of dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter that plays a role in the development of pleasurable feelings. When there is a lack of this neurotransmitter it can cause individuals to feel depressed and empty. These individuals may experience reduced sensations of pleasure, leading to the development of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Environmental: Suicidal thoughts may be the result of overwhelming life events that an individual is not able to appropriately cope with. Some of these life events can include losses, stressful situations, and tremendous emotional pain. In individuals who are otherwise healthy, sudden unexpected and usually negative life changes can cause suicidal ideation. Individuals who have a history of suicide threats or abuse are also at a higher risk for suicide in the future.

Psychological: Individuals who struggle with undiagnosed mental illnesses may feel hopeless and helpless due to the inability to control their symptoms. Due to the unpleasantness of these symptoms, individuals may come to believe that suicide is that only way to get relief. Additionally, individuals who have a terminal diagnosis or are living with chronic pain are at increased risk for suicide.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations

There are a wide range of signs and symptoms that may be apparent in individuals who are contemplating suicide. The seriousness of these thoughts will depend upon the severity of symptoms, the availability of an active support system, and other factors. Most people who are considering suicide give off warning symptoms of their intentions which should never be ignored. Symptoms of suicidal ideation may include the following:

  • Talking about having no reason to live
  • Forming a plan for the suicide attempt
  • Wanting to be left alone
  • Violent or rebellious behaviors
  • Running away
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Despair
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • No hope for the future
  • The belief that nothing will get better
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Seeking out lethal means to end their life
  • Preoccupation with death or dying
  • Getting affairs in order – making a will, giving away treasured possessions
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones
  • Acting recklessly
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Sudden change to extreme happiness
  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Anhedonia
  • Hallucinations
  • Vague somatic physical symptoms
  • Decline in work or scholastic performance
  • Withdrawing from once-pleasurable feelings
  • Sudden and extreme personality changes
  • Sudden sense of calm
  • Increased usage of alcohol or drugs
  • Worsening of emotional health
  • Neglecting personal appearance
  • Panic attacks
  • Angst
  • Extreme remorse


Effects of suicidal ideations

There are many effects that result from suicide attempts. If you’re feeling hopeless and that suicide is the only answer, the most important thing you can do is to call 911 immediately. Effects of suicide may include:

  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Self-loathing
  • Anger
  • Damage to vital organs
  • Brain death
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Death

Survival Effects

Effects on suicide survivors

A suicide survivor is a family or friend of a person who has died from suicide. There are currently over 32,000 suicides annually in the United States and it is estimated that for every suicide there are at least 6 survivors. Approximately 5 million Americans became survivors of suicide in the past 25 years. Experiencing the loss of a loved one can be shocking, painful, and unexpected. Some of the common effects suicide survivors experience include:

  • Grief (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual)
  • Denial
  • Helplessness
  • Guilt
  • Self-blame
  • Shock
  • Shame
  • Feeling responsible for not preventing the suicide
  • Feeling rejected or abandoned by their loved ones
  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Relief (if your loved one was suffering)
  • Development of PTSD
  • Anger
  • Numbness
  • Deep sadness
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