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Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation, or suicidal thoughts, are incredibly dangerous and signs to seek immediate help from medical professionals. There is no “normal” amount of suicidal thoughts. If you or a loved one are experiencing recurring thoughts of suicide, reach out today to learn more about potential treatment options.

What is Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation is the clinical term for recurring or chronic thoughts about suicide. There are two types of suicidal ideation, active ideation, and passive ideation. Active suicidal ideation is defined by thoughts of ways to take your own life or plans to do so potentially. Passive suicidal ideation is characterized by thoughts of death or wishing you were dead, without any actual plans to commit suicide.

Suicidal thoughts are not a mental health disorder but relatively common symptoms of other severe mental health conditions. Major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder are common mental health disorders that can often lead to suicidal ideation. It is also possible to have suicidal thoughts without an underlying condition, although most likely some level of depression is involved.

People experiencing suicidal thoughts will often have a variety of other symptoms as well. Feelings of low-esteem or worthlessness are commonly reported among people experiencing depressive episodes. Suicidal thoughts may also occur alongside a lack of energy, loss of interest in friends or activities, and an increased irritability level. 

Chronic suicidal ideation can be prevalent. In the United States, 4.3% of adults claimed to have had recurring suicidal thoughts during their life. Additionally, that number is estimated to be as high as 9% worldwide. 

What is the Suicidal Ideation Scale?

The Suicidal Ideation Attributes Scale, or SIDAS, is a test used to determine the severity of suicidal thoughts a person is experiencing. The test is made up of five questions that each examines one aspect of suicidal ideation. The five aspects are frequency, controllability, closeness to an attempt of suicide, impact on daily functioning, and impact on distress levels. 

Each question is answered on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 representing that this symptom never occurs and higher numbers representing the frequency of the symptoms.

According to the Australian National University, any total above zero represents at least some risk of suicidal behavior. However, high risk is defined by a score of over 21.

The five questions of the SIDAS are:

  1. In the past month, how often have you had thoughts about suicide? (0 = Never, 10 = Always)
  2. In the past month, how much control have you had over these thoughts? (0 = No Control, 10 = Full Control)
  3. In the past month, how close have you come to making a suicide attempt? (0 = Not Close at All, 10 = Made an Attempt)
  4. In the past month, to what extent have you felt tormented by thoughts about suicide? (0 = Not at All, 10 = Extremely)
  5. In the past month, how much have thoughts about suicide interfered with your ability to carry out daily activities, such as work, household tasks, or social activities? (0 = Not at All, 10 = Extremely

What Causes Chronic Suicidal Ideation?

There is no singular cause of chronic suicidal thoughts. Various factors can cause suicidal ideation, and each can have different effects depending on the individual. There are multiple factors, including psychological and environmental, that can play a major role in the development of chronic suicidal ideation. However, it is vital to note that while these risk factors increase the likelihood someone develops chronic suicidal ideation, they are not necessarily direct causes.

Mental health conditions, such as major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, can often cause suicidal thoughts. In these cases, the mental health disorder is causing a person to experience severe depression and changes in brain chemistry that make suicidal thoughts more likely.

Illness diagnoses, particularly life-threatening conditions such as cancer or other terminal illnesses, can cause a person to think of suicide. In these cases, suicide appears to be an alternative to a potentially worse way of dying to many people. However, this is a side effect of grief and trauma, which a person can experience after receiving a terminal diagnosis.

Drug or alcohol abuse can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts if treatment is not sought. Additionally, living alone or leading an isolated life increases the risk that someone commits suicide.

Experiencing trauma or abuse can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts. Soldiers returning home from war are particularly susceptible to thoughts of suicide due to the violent, traumatic experiences they endure during battle. 

Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is also considered a risk factor for chronic suicidal ideation. Due to family conflict and societal pressure, many members of the LGBTQ+ community do not feel accepted because of their sexual identity or preferences. This can lead many members of the LGBTQ+ community to feel isolated from others and at a higher risk of suicidal behavior.

How to Cure Suicidal Ideation

While there is no singular cure for suicidal ideation, treatment is readily available to those who need it. Depending on the underlying causes of the chronic suicidal thoughts, treatment often consists of a combination of medication and psychotherapy options.

Talk therapy options like cognitive behavioral therapy can be beneficial in treating chronic suicidal thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help people manage negative thoughts and reinforce positive behavior in the future. Dialectical behavior therapy can also help people who are experiencing chronic suicidal thoughts as a result of abuse or trauma.

At Warner Park Recovery, we’re here to help individuals and families by providing exceptional addiction treatment options. We’re a dual diagnosis (mental health combined with substance abuse treatment) program that offers partial day, intensive outpatient, and traditional outpatient levels of care. We regularly treat patients from the Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Topanga Canyon, The Valley, and Thousand Oaks areas. If you are looking for help with addiction treatment, please give us a call to learn more about our professional services!

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