Suicidal Ideation Signs & Symptoms

Suicidal ideations can be hard to spot. Learn about the warning signs & symptoms to watch for.

Understanding Suicidal Ideations

Learn about suicidal ideations

When an individual is confronted with intrusive and ongoing thoughts about how he or she would end his or her own life, he or she is suffering from suicidal ideation. The severity of these ideations can vary in intensity, ranging from fleeting considerations to the devising of intricate plans. Although most individuals who suffer from suicidal ideation do not follow through on their devastating thoughts, there exists a strong possibility that the line between thought and action can be crossed at any time. For this reason, it is imperative that the presence of suicidal ideation is addressed in a therapeutic setting as early as possible so as to prevent the devastation of such actions coming to fruition.


Suicidal ideation statistics

Although it cannot accurately be determined precisely how many people struggle with ongoing thoughts of suicide, there have been many statistics compiled regarding the prevalence of suicide rates, of which can be the tragic result of prolonged suicidal ideation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cited suicide as being the fourth leading cause of death amongst young people between the ages of 10 and 14, the third leading cause of death amongst adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 25, the second leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 25 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 25 and 54. Furthermore, attempts at suicide are estimated to occur every 38 seconds in the United States and completed suicides are said to occur on an average of every 94 seconds.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for suicidal ideations

The onset of suicidal ideation is said by researchers to be the result of a combination of one’s genetic background, certain environmental elements, and other potential risk factors. Such factors are described briefly in the following:

Genetic: The mental health conditions of which suicidal ideation is often symptomatic are known to be heritable in nature. Individuals who have family members who suffer from various mental illnesses, especially depression and bipolar disorder, are at a higher risk of eventually suffering from the same symptoms at some point in their lives.

Environmental: While the presence of suicidal ideation is typically the result of the existence of a mental health condition, there are also certain environmental factors that can elicit the onset of, or exacerbate current thoughts of, wanting to end one’s own life. Growing up in an environment where one is subjected to abuse and/or neglect, or is exposed to chaos, violence, and/or crime can render an individual susceptible to developing suicidal ideation. When people are denied the ability to learn appropriate coping skills or who do not have healthy support networks, they are also vulnerable to experiencing the onset of ideations of suicide. Furthermore, knowing someone who committed suicide can make the act seem like an acceptable solution to inner turmoil for some individuals.

Risk Factors:

  • Presence of a pre-existing mental illness
  • Family history of bipolar disorder, depressive disorders, or other mental health conditions
  • Lacking a healthy support network
  • Being subjected to bullying
  • Presence of significant familial discord
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Being the victim of abuse and/or neglect
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Personal or family history of substance abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations

It is not always easy to determine whether or not someone is suffering from suicidal ideation. However, there are various behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms that may arise that could potentially be indicative of the fact that an individual is plagued by these devastating thoughts. Examples of such symptoms are listed in the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • No longer engaging in things once enjoyed
  • Self-injuring
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Talking or writing about death
  • Drafting suicide notes
  • Abusing drugs and/or alcohol
  • Participating in reckless or purposefully dangerous behaviors
  • Giving away one’s possessions

Physical symptoms:

  • Injuries that result from self-mutilation
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Decline or deterioration in one’s ability to experience pleasure
  • Alterations in one’s physical appearance (e.g. lacking proper hygiene, no longer caring how one looks, etc.)

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Pervasive, intrusive, and unwanted thoughts about death
  • Memory impairment
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Lacking the ability to sustain one’s focus

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Periods of emotional detachment


Effects of suicidal ideations

As prolonged periods of time pass without an individual receiving treatment for the presence of suicidal ideation, there arises the possibility that a number of adverse consequences can begin to afflict him or her. Examples of such effects may include:

  • Relationship disturbances
  • Familial discord
  • Decline in academic or occupational performance
  • Deterioration of self-esteem
  • Isolation from friends and family members

Furthermore, the longer that individuals experience ongoing ideations of suicide, the more susceptible they are to give in to the impulse to begin engaging in self-harming behaviors. When this occurs, there can be a number of negative physical consequences that result. Depending on the form of self-injury that an individual engages in, the following effects may occur:

  • Broken bones
  • Tissue damage
  • Permanent scarring
  • Paralysis
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Organ damage / organ failure
  • Brain damage
  • Falling into a coma
  • Accidental death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideations and co-occurring disorders

When suicidal ideation is plaguing an individual, it can be inferred that he or she is suffering from some type of mental health condition. Some of the most common disorders that are known to have suicidal ideation as a symptom include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Substance use disorders

I have had suicidal thoughts for the past year and have had only a few attempts but never got to the point to go through with it. My family found out and helped me by taking me to Harbor Oaks, where I attended their treatment program and therapy sessions. They have helped me so incredibly much and I am no longer having suicidal ideations.

– Former Patient
Not Sure What To Do Next?

Mental Health Screening