Can PTSD Cause Suicidal Ideation?

If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, you know the challenges that accompany it. Mood swings, bad dreams, flashbacks, and sometimes even trouble functioning in daily life. Many of the symptoms go away, but for some people, they don’t and get worse – sometimes leading to suicidal ideation.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health issue that can affect anyone in any age group, but it only happens after someone goes through or sees a life-threatening circumstance. These kinds of events result in normal reactions to stress, but the symptoms often go away on their own, and most people begin feeling better within a few weeks or months. Educating yourself about PTSD symptoms and treatment options may help you get better and fight off suicidal ideation. 

What Are The Symptoms?

PTSD symptoms are divided into four categories. Many of these can be treated with ketamine therapy.

Reliving the event, which may include:

  • Flashbacks and reliving what happened numerous times. This may result in physical warning signs like shaking, a racing heart, or perspiring
  • Bad dreams
  • Scary thoughts, which can even make you feel as if you’re going through the traumatic event again

Avoidance, including:

  • Staying away from persons, locations, or anything which is a reminder of what happened
  • Avoiding talking or even thinking about what happened
  • Feeling numb

Negative changes in what you believe or feel, such as:

  • Feelings of fear, guilt, or being ashamed of what happened. These are all common feelings linked to suicidal ideation.
  • No longer having an interest in things you used to enjoy doing
  • Having problems remembering what happened

Hyperarousal symptoms, including:

  • Feeling anxious or edgy
  • Having problems concentrating or sleeping
  • Being easily startled or experiencing angry outbursts 

What Is Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation is when a person talks or has ideas about death and suicide. There are two kinds to be aware of: passive suicidal ideation and active suicidal ideation.

According to Prof. James Overholser of Case Western Reserve University, passive suicidal ideation is known for thoughts or talking about dying or death, but without actively making a detailed plan to follow through on such thoughts. Active suicidal ideation is the opposite – where you have an intent to harm yourself and look for ways to do it.

PTSD & Suicidal Ideation

According to the National Center for PTSD, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, researchers have found “that suicide risk is higher in persons with PTSD.” It makes sense, then, that symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder could drive a person to suicidal ideation and – tragically – end their own life. Studies also have identified suicide risk in people with PTSD, especially in the form of upsetting trauma memories, anger, and lack of impulse control. Suicide risk also increases if you have PTSD and have problems coping with stress and, for instance, can’t express feelings in a healthy manner.

At the core of the discussion are risk factors of suicide manifesting not only in someone with PTSD, but in others with a wide range of physical and mental health problems. If you’re in the throes of suicidal ideation – either talking about suicide, or actively planning to end your own life – there are risk factors you should watch for.

PTSD is often combined with other mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and many others, all of which can lead to suicidal ideation. One study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health reported that people with depression and PTSD “show greater social, occupational, and cognitive impairment, report higher levels of distress, and are more likely to attempt suicide.”

PTSD symptoms may worsen and lead to suicidal ideation because of other risk factors, like other medical problems, environmental stressors in their personal life and elsewhere, a history of personal or family mental health problems or suicide attempts, and childhood abuse.

Diagnosis & Treatment

PTSD symptoms and suicidal ideation are best dealt with by a medical professional specializing in diagnosing and treating either condition. With care and time, you can learn to identify warning signs before they get out of control – many of which subside over time. If your symptoms worsen and they begin affecting your quality of life, seek immediate medical attention.

Once diagnosed, there are many kinds of treatment that can help. Psychotherapy is the go-to treatment, but another popular option is ketamine infusion therapy. Ketamine treatment is normally available through licensed specialty clinics but ask your healthcare provider for more information.