From a woman in her 50s in Australia: Firstly – I’m not in crisis, this is a more general question. My underlying problem is probably best described as complex trauma. Is it possible for suicidal thoughts/behaviors to be like an addiction?
In the past I’ve been depressed and had suicidal thoughts which I wanted to act on, but I’ve also had a completely separate set of suicidal thoughts/behaviours that are different in quality from those. This other type happen in response to extreme stress, are not associated with a wish to actually die, seem to have a temporary calming effect, and tend to escalate in the same way every time (going from simply thinking about, to obsessive internet reading on every aspect of the topic, to planning, to gathering means) until either the crisis is resolved or I switch to being “genuinely” suicidal. I’ve never abused drugs or alcohol or self-harmed, but this seems to be a very similar sort of pattern to those.
Anything can become an addiction if it is gratifying, especially if it is experienced as intensely so. It seems that many years ago, you discovered that it relieved your anxiety to think you had a way out of distress by suicide. Thinking about it, reading about it and planning it gave you a way to distract yourself from whatever was giving you stress until you calmed down enough to actually deal with it. If you couldn’t, you then went back to thinking about a way out.
So far, you’ve managed to pull back from actual suicide. But I’m concerned that there may come a day when your distress is such that you don’t recognize the danger. Not having found other ways to cope, your only recourse is to get even more serious about suicide. That’s how “accidental suicides” happen.
I hope you will consider seeing a therapist to help you learn other powerful ways to manage stress. Recent studies in mindfulness have provided new techniques for self-soothing and managing challenging life events. Please bring your letter and this response with you to the first appointment. It will help immediately focus your treatment.
I wish you well. Dr. Marie
Can Suicidal Thoughts/Behaviors Be Addictive?
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker
Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
APA Reference Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Can Suicidal Thoughts/Behaviors Be Addictive?. Psych Central.
Retrieved on November 11, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/05/05/can-suicidal-thoughtsbehaviors-be-addictive/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.