Suicidal Ideation Symptoms & Warnings Signs

Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation and get help for yourself or a loved one. Seven Hills Hospital helps individuals struggling with suicidal ideation build a strong foundation for lasting recovery. Located near Las Vegas, Seven Hills is the leading provider of psychiatric and addiction treatment.

Understanding Suicidal Ideation

Learn About Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation is defined as having continuous, obsessive thoughts about ending one’s own life. These thoughts range in severity from developing a well detailed plan to having fleeting considerations. These suicidal thoughts may appear when an individual is no longer able to cope with intense emotions or overwhelming situations. Some of these situations can include things such as financial difficulties, the death of a loved one, experiencing a break up, or receiving a diagnosis of a debilitating illness.

It is important to note that suicidal ideation is not the same as suicidal behavior. When someone is experiencing suicidal ideation, he or she is forming or entertaining ideas of ending his or her life, not actually engaging in the act itself. While suicidal ideation does not refer to the actual act of committing suicide, it must be taken seriously because the line between thought and action can quickly be crossed.


Suicidal Ideation Statistics

In the United States alone, it is estimated that 94 suicides are completed every day. Additionally, researchers have stated that one person attempts suicide every 38 seconds. Males are said to be approximately four times more likely than females to complete the act of suicide, but females are more likely to experience chronic suicidal ideation. It has been hypothesized that this is due to the fact that males tend to act on their initial thoughts instead of suffering from prolonged ideation. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents ages 15 to 19 and there is an estimated one suicide every 97 minutes for persons between the ages of 65 and 85.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors of Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation tends to occur when individuals are no longer able to cope with an overwhelming situation. However, there are certain risk factors that are associated with a person’s susceptibility to experiencing suicidal ideation. These causes and risk factors can include a combination of genetic, physical, and environmental factors working together. Examples of these factors may include:

Genetic: Many experts in the field believe that genetics play a large role in determining if an individual will be at risk for developing suicidal ideation. This is believed to have something to do with the fact that having thoughts of suicide tends to be a sign of the presence of a mental illness, and mental illnesses are known to run in families.

Physical: It is thought that chemical imbalances in the brain contribute to the development of mental illnesses like depressive disorders and bipolar disorder, both of which have a strong tendency to result in suicidal ideation. The most commonly noted chemically imbalance that leads to the development of suicidal ideation is a decreased level of serotonin.

Environmental: There are a wide variety of environmental factors that can lead a person to begin to have thoughts of suicide. Those who have been subjected to unhealthy living environments are placed at a higher risk of developing maladaptive mental and emotional thoughts and behavior patterns due to the inability to control their own emotional pain and/or physical struggles. Additionally, experiencing trauma or other life stressors over which a person has no control can result in the onset of suicidal ideation.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of depression or other mental illnesses
  • Being homosexual and having no support
  • Family history of completed acts of suicide
  • Family history of violence
  • Suffering from physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse and neglect
  • Experiencing significant trauma
  • Loss of a family member or loved one
  • Disciplinary, social, or school problems (for children)
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Substance abuse or addiction

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation

The signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation will vary from person to person depending upon factors such as age, length of time they have been having these thoughts, the support system they have available to them, and individual temperament. Some of the most common symptoms of suicidal ideation can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Beginning to give away personal possessions
  • Participating in self-harming behaviors
  • Talking or writing about death
  • No longer participating in things that one used to enjoy
  • Becoming isolated from family and friends
  • Dramatic changes in one’s mood and behavior
  • Acting reckless and not caring about the consequences
  • Verbally threatening to commit suicide or otherwise hurting oneself
  • Substance abuse and addiction

Physical symptoms:

  • Panic attacks
  • Noticeable changes in one’s physical appearance / no longer caring how one looks
  • Suffering from an inability to experience any type of physical pleasure
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in eating patterns

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Obsessing over thoughts of death
  • Problems being able to concentrate
  • Memory problems
  • Having difficulty focusing on specific tasks, including occupational responsibilities

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Consistently increasing depression
  • Mood swings
  • Severe anxiety
  • Feeling “trapped” and as though there is no purpose to life
  • Increased irritability and agitation

Lasting Effects

Effects of Suicidal Ideation

The longer that a person suffers from chronic suicidal ideation without getting treatment, the greater the risk that they will begin to act upon those behaviors. The actual act of attempting suicide can lead to significant health problems, depending on the means by which the person uses. Some of these health problems can include:

  • Failure of a specific organ
  • Broken bones
  • Scars from cuts or burns
  • Paralysis
  • Total organ failure
  • Falling into a coma
  • Excessive blood loss
  • Brain damage

The most serious long-term effect of suicidal ideation is successfully completing the act of suicide.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideation tends to be a symptom of a number of different mental health disorders, so it is likely that someone who is having thoughts of suicide is suffering from another mental health disorder. Some of the most common disorders associated with suicidal ideation include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Adjustment disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Body dysmorphic behavior
  • Dissociative identity disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Substance abuse disorders

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About Suicide

What is the suicide rate in Las Vegas?

Suicide rates in Las Vegas are some of the highest in the country. Recent reports found that residents of this city are at a 50 percent higher risk of suicide than people living in any other city in the country. If you or someone you care about is thinking about suicide, get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

What are the signs of someone with suicidal ideation?

Someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts may:

  • Talk about getting affairs in order and/or giving away of prized possessions
  • Frequently discuss death and dying
  • Withdraw from friends and family members
  • Show sudden changes in behavior, including uncharacteristic recklessness or risk-taking
  • Have a downturn in performance at work or in school

If you or someone you care about is thinking about suicide, get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

What can cause suicide?

Suicide can be caused by a number of factors, such as untreated mental illness, genetic and environmental influences, and more. If you or someone you care about is thinking about suicide, get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Are suicide rates increasing?

Yes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the number of suicides in the United States has been on the rise since 1999 for people between the ages of 10 and 74. If you or someone you care about is thinking about suicide, get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

How can suicide be prevented?

Suicide can be prevented through a comprehensive approach that includes increasing public awareness, reducing stigma, and creating greater access to mental health support and preventative education. If you or someone you care about is thinking about suicide, get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

How do suicide attempts affect the family?

When an individual takes his or her life through suicide, his or her family may be affected by profound grief. In addition, having a close family member who has committed suicide may increase your risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviors. If you or someone you care about is thinking about suicide, get help now by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Individuals Talking in Circle

I used to see suicide as the only solution to the constant helplessness I was experiencing. After listening to my family's advice, I enrolled myself into treatment at Seven Hills. Instead of dreading my own existence, I now look forward to living each day. Thank you Seven Hills!

– David D.