Suicidal Ideation Causes, Symptoms and Signs

Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital offers high-quality services and support for adults and senior adults who are struggling with suicidal ideation. Erlanger is a leading suicidal ideation treatment center in Chattanooga, TN.

Understanding Suicidal Ideation

Learn about suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation involves persistent thoughts of taking one’s own life. This experience is often linked to the presence of a mental illness like depression, and can escalate to include creating a plan. Typically, individuals who struggle with suicidal ideation do not want to die, but instead wish to end profound suffering. This suffering could be due to acute or chronic emotional or physical pain, an untreated psychiatric concern, or many other causes.

Sadly, many individuals who experience suicidal ideation do so without talking to anyone else about it. If you are having thoughts of ending your own life, know that you are not alone, and help is available. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to be connected with resources and support in your area that can help keep you safe.

Suicidal ideation is a terrifying experience, but know that help is available. Suicidal thoughts are often linked to highly treatable mental health conditions, and by seeking the help of a professional treatment program for suicidal ideation, you can begin to heal from the underlying issues contributing to your pain. Even if you’re not ready to enter treatment today, talk to a friend or family member about what you’re feeling, and ask them to support you in staying safe and seeking help.


Statistics about suicidal ideation

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, and according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

  • In 2016, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people.
  • That same year, suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.
  • Between 1999 and 2016, the suicide rate among males remained nearly four times higher than the rate among females.
  • In 2016, firearms were the most common method of suicide deaths in the United States.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation can be caused by a wide range of factors in an individual’s experiences, environment, and genetic makeup, including the following:

  • Having a mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or substance abuse
  • Having first-degree relatives who have struggled with suicidal behaviors or mental illness
  • Having an imbalanced brain chemistry that results in decreased levels of dopamine, which is linked to feelings of pleasure
  • Experiencing overwhelming life events, including losses, stressful situations, and tremendous emotional pain
  • Struggling with an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, resulting in unpleasant, unmanaged symptoms that may cause an individual to believe that suicide is the only way to get relief from pain

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of suicidal ideation

Each person’s experience will be unique, but there are certain signs and symptoms that may indicate that someone is struggling with suicidal ideation.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Talking about having no reason to live
  • Forming a plan for the suicide attempt
  • Violent or rebellious behaviors
  • Running away or isolating oneself from others
  • Wanting to be left alone
  • Decline in performance at work or in school
  • Withdrawing from activities that one used to enjoy
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Neglecting hygiene or personal appearance
  • Change in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Talking about death or wanting to die

Physical symptoms:

  • Somatic symptoms
  • Self-injury
  • Decline in overall health
  • Unintentional weight loss or weight gain
  • Fatigue or restlessness

Mental symptoms:

  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Despair
  • Sudden personality changes
  • Believing things won’t get better
  • Sudden sense of calm
  • Psychosis


Effects of suicidal ideation

Left untreated, the mental illnesses that cause suicidal ideation will usually get worse over time and can put your life at risk. Without getting professional help for suicidal ideation, you will be faced with many negative effects, including:

  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Damage to vital organs
  • Brain injury
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Death

If you or someone you care about is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 now.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have suicidal ideation

If you struggle with suicidal ideation, you may also be more likely to be diagnosed with one or more of the following mental health conditions:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Dysthymia
  • Personality disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Substance use disorders
Marks of Quality Care
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval