Suicidal Ideation Signs & Symptoms

Rolling Hills Hospital helps individuals struggling with suicidal ideations build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Ada, near Oklahoma City, Rolling Hills Hospital is the premier provider of mental health & addiction treatment for adolescents, adults & seniors.

Understanding Suicidal Ideations

Learn about suicidal ideations

Suicidal ideations are defined as preoccupations and invasive thoughts about death and dying, of which can ultimately lead to self-harming behaviors or attempts at suicide if treatment is not sought to end these types of beliefs. Often indicative that a person is struggling with a form of mental illness, suicidal ideations can vary in severity. Some people only experience fleeting thoughts about death, while others conceive elaborate plans for committing suicide and treatment should be sought. And while all people who experience these thoughts do not always follow through on plans to end their lives, suicidal ideations should be taken seriously so as to prevent this symptom of a mental illness from worsening.


Suicidal ideation statistics

In the United States, a suicide is attempted every thirty-eight seconds and approximately 94 people die by suicide each day. A leading cause of death among young people, completed suicides occur among males more frequently than among females. However, research has suggested that females grapple with suicidal ideations for longer periods of time when compared to males with the same types of thoughts. The speculated reason for this is due to the fact that males are more inclined to act on impulses than females and make attempts at suicide. Lastly, prevalence rates of suicide among elderly individuals are growing, with estimates suggesting that a person of advanced age attempts suicide every ninety-seven minutes in America.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for suicidal ideations

Genetics, certain physical causes, environmental influences, and other risk factors can make a person more susceptible to suicidal ideations. The following elaborations on these causes and risks for ideations of suicide are widely accepted concepts among mental health professionals and explain why and how someone develops intrusive thoughts about his or her own death:

Genetics: While ideations of suicide are not known to be heritable, mental health conditions in which thoughts of suicide are a symptom can be prevalent among people from the same pool of genes. When certain mental illnesses run in a family, such a depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, there is a greater chance that an individual will experience suicidal ideations.

Physical: When an individual experiences intrusive thoughts pertaining to dying, it is likely that a mental illness is present. The presence of a mental health condition also signifies that there are chemical imbalances in a person’s brain that can cause dysregulated moods and poor decision-making. If these chemicals are not in balance, suicidal ideations, a symptom of many mental illnesses, can occur.

Environmental: There are several circumstances and environmental influences that can cause a person to develop ideations of suicide. Especially for individuals who do not possess appropriate coping skills or an adequate network of support are at risk for intrusive thoughts about death. Moreover, people who experience ongoing stress in the realms of finances, relationships, work or academic performance, and those who abuse drugs or alcohol are likely to think about dying. Lastly, persons who experience the loss of a loved one, trauma, abuse, neglect, or bullying are also vulnerable to the development of suicidal ideations.

Risk Factors:

  • Undiagnosed mental health condition
  • Family history of mental health conditions
  • Personal history of mental health condition
  • Personal history of substance use
  • Academic failure
  • Loss of employment
  • Inadequate support network
  • Experiencing the loss of a friend or loved one
  • Homelessness
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Being the victim of bullying
  • Being the victim of crime
  • Experiencing trauma
  • Prior history of abuse and/or neglect

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations

Because many individuals who experience suicidal ideations do not necessarily communicate their thoughts of death and dying, it can be difficult to discern that someone is struggling with this type of problem. However, there are a number of signs that can infer that a person is having intrusive thoughts about ending their own life:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Talking about death and dying
  • Writing about death and dying
  • Drafting suicide notes
  • Temperament changes
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Self-harm
  • Threats of self-injury
  • Use or abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Declined participation in activities that were once enjoyed

Physical symptoms:

  • Presence of injuries due to self-harm
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Panic attacks
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Poor hygiene

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Intrusive thoughts about death
  • Inability to fulfill obligations
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory impairment
  • Inability to focus

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Helpless feelings
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Increased anxiety
  • Drastic shifts in mood


Effects of suicidal ideations

Prolonged ideations of suicide can trigger a number of consequences that can be life-threatening. The listed effects have the potential to occur in the event a person experiences ongoing suicidal ideations:

  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Scars or permanent tissue damage due to self-injury
  • Hemorrhage
  • Broken bones
  • Vital organ damage or failure
  • Brain damage
  • Recurring acts of self-harm
  • Suicide attempts
  • Accidental or intentional death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideations and co-occurring disorders

Suicidal ideations are often symptomatic of a mental illness. Below are mental health conditions in which ideations of suicide can occur and elicit mental health treatment so as to prevent ideations from becoming attempts:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Adjustment disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophrenia

So thankful to have made some great friends at Rolling Hills who could understand what I was going through.

– Former Patient