Signs & Effects of Suicidal Ideation

Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with suicidal ideation build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of suicidal ideation treatment.

Understanding Suicidal Ideation

Learn about suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation is a preoccupation with how one would end his or her own life. Ranging in severity from momentary feelings to thought out plans, suicidal ideations can be obsessive, intrusive, and sometimes chronic in the conception of when, how, and with what means a person would use to commit suicide. Often occurring after a person experiences adverse feelings or a stressful situation in which he or she is unable to cope, suicidal ideations are typically precursors to suicidal behaviors or attempts.

It is important to note that while suicidal ideations involve thinking about attempts at suicide, there are no actions taken to carry out a suicide plan. Despite the lack of psychical attempts, suicidal ideations should be taken seriously and treatment to curb and cease the thoughts should be pursued.

Statistics

Suicidal ideation statistics

It is estimated that 94 suicides happen every day in the United States. Moreover, researchers believe that suicide is attempted every 38 seconds and that every 97 minutes a person between the ages of 65 and 85 attempts to take his or her own life. It has been found that suicide has become the leading cause of death in those aged 15 to 19 years old.

Additionally, studies have shown that males are more likely, about four times more, to complete an act of suicide than females. However, females are more likely to have prolonged thoughts of suicide. Experts believe that this is because males are more inclined to act on initial thoughts, rather than suffer with ideations over long periods of time.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for suicidal ideation

Causes and risk factors for suicidal ideation vary from person to person. The following variables are believed to be contributors to the development of suicidal ideations:

Genetic: When a person has suicidal ideations, it is believed that there is a mental illness present. Because a number of mental illnesses are believed to have a genetic component, a person’s susceptibility to suicidal ideations can be deduced to having a genetic origin.

Physical: Due to the chemical imbalances that are associated with mental illnesses, such as depressive disorders and anxiety disorders, ideations of suicide can be symptomatic of changes in brain chemistry. Decreased levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation, often occur in those suffering from depression. Suicidal ideation is a common risk factor for depression and is said to be the result of the physical changes in brain functioning.

Environmental: For people whose environment includes increased amounts of stress, chaos, and exposure to trauma, there is a greater risk of experiencing suicidal ideations. Moreover, being a victim of abuse, neglect, assault and/or other crimes could hinder a person’s ability to utilize coping skills and manage his or her emotions in a healthy manner. For adults, financial strife and lack of employment could be environmental contributors leading a person to develop suicidal ideations. In children and adolescents, being a victim of bullying could bring about thoughts and desires to end one’s life. Senior adults are also at risk of developing suicidal ideations as they often experience a loss of friends and loved ones as he or she advances in age.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of completed acts of suicide
  • Lacking a good support network
  • Pre-existing mental illness
  • Undiagnosed mental illness
  • Experiencing trauma, abuse, and/or neglect
  • Experiencing the loss of a loved one
  • Substance abuse
  • Loss of employment
  • Homelessness
  • Being the victim of a crime
  • Being a victim of bullying

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation

Depending on the length of time a person has been suffering from suicidal ideations, his or her age, the person’s ability to cope with stress, and the amount of support a person has, the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation can vary. It is important to note the behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms that may be present. These symptoms can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Reckless and impulsive behaviors
  • Increased substance use
  • Disengaging in once pleasurable activities
  • Self-injury
  • Giving away personal possessions
  • Social isolation
  • Threats of harm to self
  • Talking or writing about death
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Changes in temperament

Physical symptoms:

  • Inability to sleep or sleeping more than usual
  • Panic attacks
  • Lack of pride in physical appearance / poor hygiene
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Inability to experience physical pleasure

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Ruminating thoughts of death and dying
  • Memory difficulties
  • Difficulty adhering to work or school responsibilities

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Increased irritability / agitation
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling helpless
  • Increased depressed mood
  • Mood swings
  • Increased anxiety

Effects

Effects of suicidal ideation

Prolonged thoughts of suicide could ultimately lead to suicidal behaviors and/or attempts. With the most serious effect being death, there are several health effects that could result if a person does not seek help in trying to eliminate thoughts of suicide and develop healthy coping skills to deal with stress. Some of these effect can include:

  • Organ failure
  • Scars from self-harming behaviors
  • Brain damage
  • Broken bones
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Excessive blood loss

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideation and co-occurring disorders

Often the result of the presence of another mental illness or illnesses, suicidal ideations are often associated with the following disorders:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Substance abuse disorders

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– Former Resident
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