Suicide is the act of taking one's own life on purpose. Suicidal behavior is any action that could cause a person to die, such as taking a drug overdose or crashing a car on purpose.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Suicide and suicidal behaviors usually occur in people with:
Bipolar disorder Borderline personality disorder Depression
- Drug or alcohol dependence
People who try to commit suicide are often trying to get away from a life situation that seems impossible to deal with. Many who make a suicide attempt are seeking relief from:
- Feeling ashamed, guilty, or like a burden to others
- Feeling like a victim
- Feelings of rejection, loss, or loneliness
Suicidal behaviors may be caused by a situation or event that the person views as overwhelming, such as:
- Aging (the elderly have the highest rate of suicide)
- Death of a loved one
- Dependence on drugs or alcohol
- Emotional trauma
- Serious physical illness
- Unemployment or money problems
Risk factors for suicide in teenagers include:
- Access to guns
- Family member who committed suicide
- History of hurting themselves on purpose
- History of being neglected or abused
- Living in communities where there have been recent outbreaks of suicide in young people
- Romantic breakup
Most suicide attempts do not result in death. Many of these attempts are done in a way that makes rescue possible. These attempts are often a cry for help.
Some people attempt suicide in a way that is somewhat non-violent, such as poisoning or overdose. Males, especially elderly men, are more likely to choose violent methods, such as shooting themselves. As a result, suicide attempts by males are more likely to be completed.
Relatives of people who attempt or commit suicide often blame themselves or become very angry. They may see the suicide attempt as selfish. However, people who try to commit suicide often mistakenly believe that they are doing their friends and relatives a favor by taking themselves out of the world.
Review Date: 03/07/2011
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Unviersity of Washington, School of Medicine; and David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.