Suicidal Ideation Symptoms, Signs & Effects

Ohio Hospital for Psychiatry offers effective, comprehensive treatment for individuals struggling with suicidal ideation. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation.

What is Suicidal Ideation?

Learn More About Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal thoughts, or suicidal ideation, are a preoccupation with death and dying that is often a reaction to stressful life events. Many times, suicidal thoughts are the result of an individual feeling as if they are not able to cope with life situations, and these overwhelming feelings can cause an individual to believe there is no other way out. Men and women with suicidal thoughts may experience some sort of tunnel vision – while in the middle of a crisis they believe suicide is the only answer.

Many people who are intending to die by suicide display symptoms of their intent and one of the best ways to prevent suicide is to recognize these signs so that you can get help. If you think that someone may be suicidal take action and call 911 immediately, by doing this you may save a life.


Statistics of Suicidal Ideation?

It is estimated that each year, one in six people die needlessly by suicide in the United States. In 2007, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, equaling nearly 35,000 lives lost. That same year, suicide was the seventh leading cause for death in women and fifteenth for men. Among people ages 15 to 24, suicide ranks the third leading cause for death.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Suicidal Ideation

The presence of suicidal thoughts has many different causes. Most often the cause for suicidal thoughts is feeling as if you cannot cope with the life circumstances you are faced with. Individuals who have no hope for the future will begin to think that ending their life is the only way to end the emotional pain they are facing. The onset of suicidal thoughts can be the result of many factors, including:

Genetic: Those who have a family history of suicide attempts or have relatives that have suicidal thoughts are more likely to have these thoughts themselves. While it appears as if there is a genetic link, more research is needed. Additionally, there seems to be a genetic link to impulsive behavior that can contribute to suicidal tendencies.

Physical: Research has indicated that the risk for suicide increases as the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin decreases.

Environmental: Growing up surrounded by violence increases the risk for suicide. Additionally, other environmental factors such as stressful life events are going to possibly make someone more likely to be suicidal.

Risk Factors:

  • Access to firearms
  • Being socially isolated
  • Family history of mental disorders
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Chronic pain or terminal illness
  • Prior history of suicide attempts
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Underlying psychiatric disorder such as depression
  • Being homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered
  • Unsupportive family or hostile living environment

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation

The warning signs of suicidal ideation are not always obvious and also tend to vary from person to person. Some people may make their intentions of suicide clear while others keep all thoughts a secret. However, since one of the best ways to successfully prevent suicide is to be aware of the warning signs, it is important to know the signs and symptoms. Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation may include:

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Saying goodbye to loved ones
  • Making comments like: “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead”
  • Decline in work performance
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Sudden change in personality
  • Seeking out lethal means
  • Increased abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Increased amount of time spent alone
  • Violent and reckless behaviors
  • Getting affairs in order – making a will, giving away treasured possessions
  • Forming a plan for the suicide

Physical Symptoms:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in eating patterns causing weight loss or gain
  • Vague somatic symptoms
  • Neglecting personal appearance
  • Agitation

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Preoccupation with death, dying, or violence

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anger
  • Remorse
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Inability to feel pleasure


Effects of Suicidal Ideation

Suicide attempts and suicidal behaviors can leave those closest to the person struggling to find answers. If you’re feeling hopeless about the future and believe suicide is the only way to end the pain that you are feeling, call 911 immediately. Some effects of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts may include:

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

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders of Suicidal Ideation

Many individuals who have suicidal thoughts are also struggling with co-occurring mental health conditions. In fact, over 90% of people who die by suicide meet the criteria for a co-occurring, co-morbid mental illness, such as:

  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Personality disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

The frequency at which I had suicidal thoughts got to the point where I couldn't remember a single moment where I actually wanted to live. I decided to take control of my life, and sought out help at Ohio Hospital for Psychiatry. Thanks to their staff, my suicidal ideations are gone. Thank you OHP!

– Helen M.