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What Drives a Person to Suicide?

What Drives a Person to Suicide?Each of us has swings in our mood or has highs and lows in our emotional feelings. If these swings are within a certain normal range, we remain self-governed and functional. But when they become extreme, they can lead us into the poles of mania and depression. In some cases if the manias become extremely high, the depressions can become extremely low.

Similar, but other forms of these manias and depressions can be fantasies and nightmares or extreme degrees of pride and shame. When we are up, manic and elated, our brain can become flooded by increased releasing of dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, endorphins, enkephalins and serotonin. When we are depressed the reverse can occur and cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, dihydrotestosterone, substance P and other neurotransmitters can surge.

If the manic fantasy becomes extremely high, it can simultaneously be accompanied by a hidden compensatory depression. And if the dopamine rises and we become addicted to our manic states and fantasies, our hidden depressions can grow even more powerful.

If we have an unrealistic expectation to remain living in a sort of ever-lasting manic or invincible fantasy world or state, we can have depressive thoughts of suicide as a counterbalancing thought.

When we get dopamine in the brain, whatever we associate dopamine with, we can become repeatedly attracted or addicted to. So if we create a fantasy that stimulates dopamine, we become addicted to that fantasy and our life in comparison can become perceived as a relative nightmare if we can’t or don’t fulfill that fantasy. The fantasy is how we would like and imagine our lives to be, our unrealistic expectation.

Our depression is a comparison of our current reality to a fantasy that we are addicted to. If that fantasy is extremely unreasonable and unobtainable, thoughts of suicide can emerge. And the longer the fantasy is held onto and the more we are addicted to it, the more the depression can linger, and the more the thought of suicide can become the only way out.

So any time we have an expectation that is delusional or extremely unrealistic, or is not aligned with our true, highest values, depression can ensue and suicide can become a persistent thought. Many have had moments where they have contemplated and considered it.

Another initiator of depression is an unloved action we’ve done that we feel guilty or shameful about (such as bankruptcy, an affair, violence, sexual offense, or failure). We don’t see a solution or resolution to the guilty action. And the resultant self-deprecating feelings, if extreme, can also lead to an unworthy driven suicide.

Any time we feel guilty or shameful and are not living up to some idealistic expectations (such as sustained fame, fortune, saintliness, influence, or power), suicidal thoughts can enter our minds. Many people have this experience occasionally. But prolonged unrealistic expectations and fantasies or shame and guilt can lead us into despair and suicidal thoughts. And extreme, invincible fantasies can take us right out of this life.

Anything that we are having difficulty loving about ourselves and that we don’t want the world to know about us, that then gets exposed, can also lead to suicide to save us from further social humiliation. Just like most fears are assumptions and they don’t always occur, so too these despairs and depressions that make us think about suicide are seldom if ever as challenging or terrible as we initially imagine them to be. More balanced and realistic expectations can help dispel thoughts of suicide.

Unrealistic, unmet expectations can lead to depressive feelings. There is no doubt that we have a biochemical imbalance associated with these feelings. Pharmacology and psychiatry focus on the biochemistry, and psychology focuses on the expectations and internal and unconscious strategies. Both approaches have their place. But before tampering with brain chemistry, it’s certainly wise to get our expectations in line with a more balanced reality.

One of the fantasies that people have is that some people have an easier life. That’s not generally the case. Other people have different challenges that we probably wouldn’t want. That’s why we have the challenges that we have. Our own values and priorities determine what challenges we experience. We are given challenges we can handle.

It’s not what happens to us that matters; it’s our perceptions of what’s happened to us and what we decide to do with that. So if we sit and become victims of our history because we’ve stacked up challenges instead of mastering our destiny by seeing opportunities, the challenges are overwhelming and we could lead ourselves to suicide.

There’s never a problem without a solution; there’s never a crisis without a blessing; there’s never a challenge without an opportunity. They come in pairs. Although our apparent mood swings, manias and depressions, fantasies and nightmares seem to be consciously cyclic and separated, they are actually unconsciously synchronous and inseparable.

The more we are addicted to experiencing only support, ease, pleasure, positive and fantasy, the more likely our depression, and the more likely that our daily life challenges will overwhelm us. But if we understand that life has both sides — support and challenge, ease and difficulty, pleasures and pains, positives and negatives, we’re less volatile and we’re less likely to be depressed.

When we live congruently, in accordance with our true highest values and when we embrace both sides of life equally and simultaneously, we’re more resilient, adaptable and more fit. But when we’re searching for a one-sided world, the other side smacks us. Life has two sides. Embrace both sides. The desire for that which is unavailable and the desire to avoid that which is unavoidable is the source of human suffering.

What Drives a Person to Suicide?


John Demartini

Dr. John Demartini is a leading authority in human behavior and leadership development. He is an educator, researcher and author who's developed a series of solutions applicable across all markets, sectors and age groups. His education curriculum ranges from relationship solutions, social transformation programs, financial empowerment strategies, corporate empowerment programs, and self-development programs. His teachings start at the core of the issue, addressing the human factor and range out to a multitude of powerful tools that have proven the test of time. www.drdemartini.com


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APA Reference
Demartini, J. (2018). What Drives a Person to Suicide?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 14, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-drives-a-person-to-suicide/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.