Anxiety and Suicide

Anxiety and Suicide

What are the links between anxiety and suicide? They’re deep and surprising, according to a few new studies. While suicide has long been linked to more “severe” mental disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia, anxiety and suicide are being linked now more than ever. Of course, not everyone with anxiety will commit or attempt suicide, but understanding that these links are deep and strong will go a long way towards helping us understand just how serious a problem an anxiety disorder can be.

What studies say about anxiety and suicide

One recent study from Sweden showed that people who have nervous or anxious feelings on a regular basis are more likely than average to attempt suicide sometime in the next decade. This study is a little vague, but others have linked anxiety and suicide even more deeply.

One United States study shows that about 75% of mentally ill patients who try to commit suicide or succeed in committing suicide also have one or more anxiety disorders. Besides this, when compared with patients who only have depression, patients with an anxiety disorder are even slightly more at risk for attempting or committing suicide in the near future.

It used to be thought that anxiety disorders had to go along with other things – such as depression or other mental illnesses – in order to raise a person’s risk for committing suicide. Now, though, psychologists are admitting that an anxiety disorder alone is enough to cause suicidal thoughts and attempts in a huge number of patients.

In a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2005, it was found that 52.4% of people who imagine committing suicide have at least one anxiety disorder and that about 64.1% of those who attempt suicide had at least one anxiety disorder. Also, the presence of just one anxiety disorder in a patient is enough to increase the lifetime risk of suicide in an individual.

What can be done?

Clearly the links between anxiety and suicide are strong enough to be of major concern to clinicians and therapists – as well as anxiety sufferers. If you or someone you know is at risk for anxiety and suicide, there are things that you can do to help reduce the risks of anxiety leading to suicide:

  • Understand that anxiety is a serious problem, even if it is not as severe as a phobia or panic attack disorder. Even if you’re just struggling with everyday feelings of generalized anxiety and nervousness, your risk for committing or attempting suicide could go up. Seek help immediately whenever you feel that you’re being overtaken by anxiety in your life.
  • Seek help whenever you have suicidal thoughts or intentions. If you find your mind drifting to thoughts of suicide, particularly if you already feel anxious, seek help immediately. Cognitive behavioral therapy and medication can straighten out the problem before it becomes out of control.
  • Understand your own anxiety. Learn to understand how your mind and your anxiety work, so that you can combat them on a daily basis. Learn relaxation techniques to keep your general anxiety levels lowered, and seek further help in the form of therapy if relaxation techniques aren’t enough.

On the social level, it’s time that we take anxiety and suicide seriously. If you know someone who struggles with constant or overwhelming anxiety, talk to that person about what you might be able to do to help. You might be surprised at how much just having someone take them seriously can help a person with an anxiety disorder, as these disorders are often overlooked or brushed off by observers!