PTSD and Suicide

Overview

With post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), your symptoms can be overwhelming. You may be thinking about harming yourself, or even thinking about suicide.

Sometimes people with PTSD also have depression, panic attacks, severe anxiety, or a substance abuse problem. This may put you at a higher risk for suicide.

You may think that ending your life is the only solution. If you feel this way, you're not alone. Many people with PTSD have thoughts about suicide. Some studies suggest that PTSD symptoms, such as having stressful memories of your trauma, may put you at a higher risk.1, 2

Other factors that can increase your risk for suicide include:1

  • Being male.
  • Not having social support.
  • Having a family history of suicide.
  • Owning guns.

If you have thoughts about suicide, there are ways you can get help. Talking to someone can help you see that there are other solutions. Tell a doctor, clergy member, friend, or family member how you feel, and talk to your doctor about counseling or medicines that can help you. Getting treatment right away can help prevent suicide.

Warning signs include:

  • Planning to hurt yourself or someone else.
  • Talking or thinking a lot about killing yourself.
  • Having a weapon that could be used for killing yourself.
  • Taking a lot of drugs or alcohol.
  • Feeling like you're not in control of your thoughts.
  • Spending a lot of time alone.
  • Giving away your possessions.
  • Writing or drawing about death or suicide.
  • Hearing voices that tell you to harm yourself.

If you think your spouse or a loved one is at risk for suicide:

  • Learn the warning signs listed above. Take these signs seriously.
  • Talk to your loved one as openly as possible. Ask questions and listen. Be supportive and caring.
  • Find out if he or she has a specific plan about suicide.
  • Remove things that could be used for suicide, such as a gun or knife.

If you have warning signs of suicide, go to the hospital, call 911, or call a suicide hotline (1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433) now.

If your loved one is planning to attempt suicide, call a suicide hotline or 911, or take your loved one to the hospital. Try to get him or her to agree not to attempt suicide.

For more information, see the topic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

References

Citations

  1. Hudenko W (2007). PTSD and suicide. A National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Fact Sheet. Available online: http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_suicide.html.
  2. Thompson ME, et al. (1999). Partner abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder as risk factors for suicide attempts in a sample of low-income, inner-city women. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 12(1): 59–72.

Credits

Author Jeannette Curtis
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jessica Hamblen, PhD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Last Updated January 21, 2009

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