Suicidal Ideation Signs, Symptoms and Effects


Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of suicidal ideation is an important step toward getting help for yourself or your loved one. Haverhill Pavilion Behavioral Health Hospital in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a source of accurate information, reliable guidance, and comprehensive solutions for adults and older adults who have been struggling with suicidal ideation.

Understanding Suicidal Ideation

Learn about suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation is a clinical term that refers to thoughts of ending one’s own life. Suicidal ideation can encompass a wide range of thoughts, from relatively fleeting ruminations to detailed plans. In some cases, suicidal ideation is a symptom of a mental health disorder. In other cases, it may be a response to stress, pressure, trauma, or another external influence.

Anyone who experiences suicidal ideation for any reason should seek professional help. Whether or not suicidal ideation is a symptom of an underlying disorder, proper professional care can help a person overcome these distressing thoughts.

If you or someone you care about has been struggling with suicidal ideation, please know this: You are not alone, and help is available. If you feel that you or your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Signs & Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation

People who are struggling with suicidal ideation may experience a variety of signs and symptoms. However, it is important to understand that there are no standard or universal signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation. A wide range of personal factors can influence the thoughts, actions, and appearance of a person who has been having thoughts of suicide.

With that understanding, the following are among the more common signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person is thinking about ending their life:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Pulling away from friends and family members
  • No longer participating in hobbies, activities, or other pursuits that were previously of great importance
  • Speaking of yourself in disparaging or derogatory terms
  • Frequently crying or expressing anger for no obvious reason
  • Often talking about death and dying
  • Giving away items of great personal significance
  • Acting with uncharacteristic aggression or recklessness

Physical symptoms:

  • Apparent lack of attention to appearance, hygiene, or grooming
  • Sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or not being able to sleep (insomnia)
  • Significant appetite changes and resultant weight loss or gain
  • Dramatic changes in energy level, vitality, and stamina

Mental symptoms:

  • Drastic mood swings
  • Problems with focus and concentration
  • Pervasive sadness
  • Diminished self-worth
  • Generalized sense of dread or fear
  • Anhedonia (this is a clinical term that means an inability to experience pleasure)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Recurring thoughts of death and dying

Short-Term Effects

Possible short-term effects of suicidal ideation

Obviously, the greatest danger facing a person who is having suicidal ideation is the risk that they may act on these thoughts. For this reason, no instance of suicidal ideation should ever be ignored. If you or someone you care about has been thinking about suicide, please get help today.

In addition to the risk that a person may attempt to end their own life, continuing to struggle with suicidal ideation can also lead to several other negative outcomes. The following short-term effects of suicidal ideation are examples of difficulties that may occur shortly after a person begins to have these thoughts:

  • Strained relationships with friends or family members
  • Withdrawing from those who are closest to you
  • Substandard performance at work or in school
  • Onset of co-occurring disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Physical harm due to reckless behaviors or poor self-care
  • Diminished self-esteem
  • Increased risk for self-harm

Please note that listing these outcomes as short-term effects of suicidal ideation is by no means meant to downplay their severity. There is no such thing as a harmless effect of suicidal ideation. Anyone who has experienced any of the short-term effects of suicidal ideation is in danger and needs professional help.

Long-Term Effects

Potential long-term effects of suicidal ideation

The longer a person experiences suicidal ideation, the greater their risk becomes for additional negative outcomes. The following are among the many potential long-term effects of suicidal ideation:

  • Ruined relationships with friends or family members
  • Loss of personal support network
  • Worsening symptoms of co-occurring disorders
  • Overwhelming sense of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Social isolation
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Serious medical issues related to reckless behaviors or poor self-care
  • Addiction
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal behaviors

The long-term effects of suicidal ideation can be devastating. It is also important to understand that there is no standard progression from the short-term effects to long-term effects of suicidal ideation. Thoughts of suicide do not follow a predictable pattern, which means that their potential outcomes can occur quickly and with great severity. If you or someone you care about has been having suicidal thoughts, get help today.

With proper professional assistance, you can regain control of your thoughts, overcome suicidal ideation or any other self-defeating urges, and pursue a much healthier future.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common disorders among people who have suicidal ideation

Many, but not all, cases of suicidal ideation are related to mental health disorders. If you or someone you care about has been having thoughts of suicide, these thoughts may be symptoms of, or otherwise associated with, one of the following disorders:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The cause-effect relationship between the disorders listed above and suicidal ideation can vary from case to case and person to person.

In some instances, people first develop one of the disorders listed above and then experience suicidal ideation as a symptom of the disorder. In other cases, a person will struggle with suicidal ideation first and then develop the signs and symptoms of one of these disorders. As noted earlier on this page, others may have suicidal thoughts without ever developing one of the disorders listed here.

The possible relationship between suicidal ideation and the disorders in this section is one of the many reasons why it’s essential to seek effective professional help. An experienced clinician can identify and address issues that may have contributed to or been impacted by a person’s suicidal thoughts.

To achieve improved wellness in the aftermath of suicidal ideation, it’s vital to get help from a provider who can offer thorough assessments and comprehensive solutions.


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