Why Do I Have Suicidal Thoughts?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I feel like I’m tearing myself up inside, even though I’m sitting still and not saying a word. I have sudden impulses, envisioning stabbing myself in the temple with a pencil, just to relieve the tension. Sometimes it’s just an urge to tear up a book in front of me. Other times I just think to myself, “if I had a gun right now, I’d have no problem pulling the trigger on myself.” I generally imagine doing it at the temple, under my jaw, at my eye, or up my pelvic area. Of course I’d never do any of these things, but why do I always feel like it?

A. The New York Times recently published a compelling and revealing narrative (The Urge to End It All, July 6, 2008) inside the lives of individuals who attempted suicide and survived. A segment of the article was devoted to a woman named Debbie, 50, who discussed what led to her impulsive decision to end her life. Debbie recalled that her decision was related to a recent divorce and job stress. She describes not being able to see another way of out of her situation. Awakening from her horrific situation, she recalled repeating the words: “I don’t want to die. Please, I don’t want to die.” The author Scott Anderson interviewed other survivors of suicide attempts and found that none of them ever thought about suicide again.

Another interesting aspect of the article is the discussion of Dr. David Rosen. Dr. Rosen interviewed nine people who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in California and lived. He made the observation that “none of them had truly wanted to die. They wanted their inner pain to stop: they wanted some measure of relief; and this was the only answer they could find.”

Dr. Rosen seems to have understood the very reason that many people consider suicide. They feel so much pain, emotionally and sometimes physically that they see no other way to end their suffering.

There are many important themes to this article but one highlight is this: when people feel that they do not have any other options to relieve their suffering they sometimes turn to suicide. What can be learned from this article is the fact that many people who do attempt to end their lives don’t really want to die; they just want to end their suffering.

That observation by Dr. Rosen bears repeating: that people did not really want to die; they just wanted to end their suffering.

People may contemplate suicide for many other reasons but fundamentally it seems that it’s mostly due to their suffering and lack of coping skills to deal with difficult life situations. You must know there are many other ways to deal with the issues that are causing you distress.

Therapy could greatly decrease your desire to end your life and increase the ways in which you deal with stress and emotional pain. It may be that you never learned how to effectively deal with overwhelming emotions or other stressful life circumstances. A good therapist can teach you many different coping skills that you could apply to real life situations. Learn from the survivors who say that even though they attempted to end their lives they truly wanted to live. Do not mistakenly believe that the only way to help yourself is to end your life. There are other ways to deal with life distress and those skills can be learned. Please get help now.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Why Do I Have Suicidal Thoughts?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/10/06/why-do-i-have-suicidal-thoughts/