PTSD and suicide attempts often co-occur. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is among the most often diagnosed mental disorders in the United States, with a 3.7% 12-month prevalence and 10% lifetime prevalence. Research suggests that people with PTSD are more apt to think about or even attempt suicide than people not suffering from PTSD. Apparently PTSD’s contribution to suicidality goes past the effects of just the trauma. People with PTSD are 2 to 5 times as likely to have a suicide attempt as opposed to people who lived through a trauma, but are not suffering from PTSD. Also, when you compare people of a similar age, ethnicity, sex, marital status, education and diagnoses of another mental health disorder, people with PTSD have a double likelihood of reporting suicidal ideation and 2 to 4 times as apt to support a suicide attempt than people who are not suffering from PTSD.

Not much is known regarding the association of exposure to specific types of traumatic events and suicidality. The goal of the investigation we’re discussing in this article was to assess links between types of trauma and each suicidal ideation and attempt in a large sample representing a cross-section of the nation. This study examined the link between exposure to an accumulation of many different types of trauma (cumulative trauma exposure) and suicidal ideation and attempt.

The results were consistent with prior studies that showed an association between PTSD and suicide attempts, with childhood abuse apparently having an incredibly strong association to suicidal behavior. As much as 37% of those with PTSD reported having attempted suicide with up to 52% saying they had suicidal ideation. Assaultive violence traumas and being involved in peacekeeping both showed suicide attempts and ideation at high rates. These results are in keeping with research that suggests directly experienced and interpersonal traumas may certainly be more disabling, which is consistent with the interpersonal psychological suicide theory.

These trauma types may put the person at risk for suicide by eliciting feelings of being socially isolated, the perception that they’re a burden to others, and habituation that results in a higher pain tolerance and a sense of fearlessness about death due to repeated exposure. Of people with PTSD who lived through war-related traumas, those who were doing relief or peacekeeping work in a war zone were most related to suicide attempts.

The total number of separate and unique traumas being reported was strongly linked to the rates for suicidal ideation and attempt. It was clear that multiple traumas heightened suicidality, with each additional trauma experienced being linked to an approximate increase of 20.1% for suicide ideation and 38.9% for suicide attempts. This is consistent with prior research implying that cumulative trauma is linked with an increase in symptom severity and more complexity in people with PTSD. In this sample, people with PTSD said they’d had on average, six separate and unique types of trauma. These findings were especially worrisome considering that repeated traumas may bring about habituation, tolerance of pain and a sense of fearlessness about death, therefore raising the risks of PTSD and suicide. Almost 33% of those diagnosed with PTSD, who experienced childhood trauma, abuse or sexual assault, attempted suicide after the traumatic event.

If you or someone you know is experiencing PTSD symptoms or suicidal ideation, please call us for an intake assessment and effective treatment.

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