Understanding The Motivations Behind Suicide


While no single reason can account for each suicidal act, there are common characteristics associated with completed suicides. Perhaps they can help you to understand why someone you love died by suicide.

1) The common purpose of suicide is a solution. Suicide is many things, but it is neither random nor pointless. To those who choose to end their own lives, suicide is an answer to an unsolvable problem or a way out of a horrible dilemma. Suicide is somehow the preferred choice to another set of dreaded circumstances, emotional pain, or disability, which the person fears more than death.

2) The common goal of suicide is to cease consciousness. Those who die by suicide want to end the conscious experience, which, for them, has become an endless stream of distressing, preoccupying thoughts. Suicide offers oblivion.

3) The common stressor in suicide is frustrated psychological needs. People who have high standards and expectations are extra vulnerable to suicide when progress toward goals is suddenly frustrated. People who attribute failure and disappointment to their own shortcomings may come to view themselves as worthless, unlovable, and incompetent. In adults, suicide is often related to work or interpersonal problems. In teenagers, suicide is often precipitated by family turmoil.

4) The common stimulus in suicide is intolerable psychological pain. Excruciating negative emotions (i.e. sadness, shame, guilt, anger, and fear) from any circumstance frequently serve as the foundation for suicide.

5) The common internal attitude in suicide is ambivalence. Most of those who contemplate suicide – including those successful in carrying out their suicidal plans -are ambivalent. They do want to die, yet they also wish they could find another solution to their dilemma.

6) The common emotion in suicide is hopelessness and/or helplessness. A pervasive pessimistic expectation about the future is even more important than other types of negative emotions (anger, depression) in predicting suicide. A suicidal person is convinced that nothing whatsoever can improve the situation; that no one else can help.

7) The common cognitive state in suicide is constriction. Suicidal thoughts and plans are like tunnel vision. The suicidal person is unable or unwilling to engage in any effective problem-solving behaviors and may see everything in all or nothing terms.

8 ) The common interpersonal act in suicide is communication of intent. There’s a harmful myth that those who really want to die by suicide do not talk about it. However, at least 80% of those who do end up killing themselves have spoken to others about their plans or have attempted suicide before.

9) The common action in suicide is escape. Suicide provides a way to escape from intolerable circumstances.

10) The common consistency in suicide is life-long coping patterns. During crisis periods that precipitate suicidal thoughts, people tend to use the response patterns they’ve used all of their life.

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