Suicidal Ideations Causes, Signs & Symptoms

No one experiences suicidal ideations the same way as someone else. Understanding the signs, symptoms and side effects of suicidal ideations is a key component toward starting the recovery journey.

Understanding Suicidal Ideations

Learn about suicidal ideations

In 2010, it was estimated that there were 38,364 suicides in the U.S. across age groups. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Yet this doesn’t fully summarize the picture as when interviewed, more than 1 million Americans reported having made a suicide attempt with the intent to die in the previous year, and more than 2 million people reported thinking about committing suicide in the previous year. These statistics are more than numbers. They represent a great deal of pain and suffering that was never sufficiently addressed, often because the individual didn’t bring it to the attention of others or felt that they couldn’t.

Mental health difficulties are strongly associated with suicide. Reports indicate that more than 90% of men and women who commit suicide have a mental disorder. Many of those who commit suicide suffer from undiagnosed or untreated depression. In addition to depression, common disorders in individuals who commit suicide include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, conduct disorder (in adolescence), and major depression which co-occurs with at least one other disorder.

Suicidal thoughts and attempts are common among young people. While many people see this as an attention-getting strategy among adolescents, this is not the case. In fact, 1 in 100 attempts committed by individuals 25 and under results in death. Also, as many as 10% of those who make an attempt eventually end up committing suicide.

While it may feel as though these suicidal feelings won’t ever end, they can and they will. This is not a permanent condition and you will feel better; things will be okay. You’re never alone and you can make it through this crisis a stronger person.


Suicidal ideations statistics

Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, however, women are three times more likely to make one or more attempts. The highest rates of suicide occur in individuals between the ages of 45 and 54. Elderly adults over the age of 85 have suicide rates that are 36% higher than all age groups below the age of 85. Feelings of hopelessness is more predictive of suicide than depression. Those who are socially isolated also have significantly higher rates of suicide than those with satisfying social networks.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for suicidal ideations

Suicide is defined as taking one’s life on purpose. Suicidal behavior is any behavior that is intended to lead to the person’s death such as taking a medication overdose or jumping off a bridge. Suicidal thoughts also called suicidal ideation, can range from brief, fleeting thoughts to a fully constructed plan to carry out the suicidal act.

While intent seems to be the determining factor for suicidal ideation and suicide, more recent research suggests that intent is based on psychosocial stressors. Individuals experiencing suicidal ideation in the absence of psychosocial risk factors are at a lower risk of committing suicide.

There are a number of risk factors for suicide, generally consisting of psychosocial or environmental stressors. These include:

  • Having made a prior suicide attempt
  • Poor coping skills
  • Loneliness
  • Access to firearms
  • Conflict with friends or loved ones
  • Being the victim of a bully
  • Uncertainty about sexual orientation
  • Becoming pregnant as a teenager
  • Overwhelming life stressor
  • The presence of a mental health disorder or a substance use disorder
  • Diagnosis of painful and debilitating illness that can lead to death
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of alcoholism or other psychiatric disorders
  • Having suffered a trauma including a history of sexual, emotional, physical abuse
  • Lacking an adequate social network
  • Social isolation
  • Living alone
  • Grieving a painful loss
  • Marital difficulties or other family problems
  • Decreased financial status, being unemployed or being required to change jobs
  • Rejection by a significant other
  • Being recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations

Most individuals who are considering suicide often give off warning signals that they are in crisis and need immediate intervention. These signs may include:

  • Increasing drug and alcohol abuse
  • Extreme personality changes – severe agitation or anxiety
  • Being preoccupied with dying, death or violence
  • Withdrawing from family and loved ones.
  • Wanting to be “left alone”
  • Feeling trapped and hopeless about a situation
  • Talking about suicide, “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I wish I were dead,” are common statements.
  • Gathering the items needed to commit suicide
  • Changes in normal routine, such as eating or sleeping habits
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Acting self-destructive
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones as if they won’t be seeing them again
  • Giving away cherished belongings without a reason
  • Getting legal affairs in order without a logical reason
  • Sudden change from depressive behavior to a calm, happy demeanor


Effects of suicidal ideations

A number of complications that can arise after a suicide attempt.

Effects of Suicide Attempts on the Individual:

  • Total organ failure
  • Brain damage
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Death

Effects on Suicide Survivors: suicide survivors are the people that are left behind following a successful suicide attempt. These effects can include:

  • Anger
  • Prolonged, delayed grief
  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Helplessness
  • Abandonment
  • Pain
  • Shame
  • Hopelessness
  • Confusion
  • Self-blame
  • Guilt
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling alone
  • Facing social stigma of suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideations and co-occurring disorders

There are a number of mental illnesses that occur with suicidal ideation and suicide. These include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Alcoholism
  • Substance abuse
  • Disruptive disorders
  • Conduct disorders
  • ADHD
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorders