Signs & Symptoms of Suicidal Ideations

Learn about the side effects, causes, signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations. Millcreek of Magee Treatment Center offers the best residential treatment and home-based programs for children & adolescents struggling with suicidal ideations.

Understanding Suicidal Ideations

Learn more about suicidal ideations

Suicidal ideation is characterized by the presence of intrusive and invasive thoughts and preoccupations regarding death, resulting in an individual experiencing ideations about wanting to end his or her own life. The severity of such ideations can range in severity from fleeting considerations to the devising of detailed plans. While most individuals do not follow through on their ideations, the line between thoughts and actions has the potential of being crossed at any time. Keeping this in mind, it is imperative that when there is any implication that the presence of suicidal ideation is afflicting a child or adolescent, it should be immediately addressed with treatment in order to prevent potential devastating, life-threatening consequences.

While suicidal ideation can be a terrifying experience for children and adolescents, as well as for their families, it is fortunately something that can be addressed and successfully overcome through one’s participating in thorough, comprehensive treatment.


Suicidal ideations statistics

Due to the fact that suicidal ideation is something that occurs in a person’s mind, it can be difficult to compile fully accurate statistics in regards to its prevalence. As a result, researchers have instead compiled statistics based on the actual suicide rates of children and adolescents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death amongst youth between the ages of 10 and 14. Among adolescents, teens, and young adults, suicide is currently estimated to be the third leading cause of death amongst those individuals between the ages of 15 and 24. Furthermore, and most devastatingly, approximations have been provided that state that attempts at suicide occur every 38 seconds in the United States, with suicides actually being completed every 94 seconds.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for suicidal ideations

Genetic: The presence of suicidal ideation is more often than not symptomatic of a mental health condition, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Mental illnesses are known to run in families, leading children and adolescents who have family histories of such conditions more susceptible to experiencing suicidal ideation as a symptom of a mental health condition.

Physical: The presence of mental health conditions are typically the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. When serotonin, in particular, is imbalanced, it can negatively and significantly impact the way in which an individual’s mood is regulated. Researchers and professionals in the field believe that such imbalanced levels of serotonin can eventually elicit the onset of preoccupations with ending one’s life.

Environmental: There are certain environmental factors that elicit the onset of suicidal ideation in children and adolescents. Children who are subjected to abuse or neglect are highly susceptible to developing suicidal ideation, as are those who witness violence and who are exposed to other types of unhealthy environments. Additionally, children and adolescents who are the victims of ongoing bullying have also been known to develop these devastating thought patterns.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Family history of depression or other mental illnesses
  • Being the victim of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse
  • Experiencing the death of a loved one
  • Low self-esteem
  • Knowing someone who has attempted, or died by, suicide
  • Chronic exposure to violence
  • Suffering from a severe medical condition
  • Being the victim of bullying

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations

Knowing whether or not an individual is struggling with suicidal ideation can be difficult, as it is not common for children and adolescents to verbalize such experiences. However, there may be some signs present that could indicate that a child is struggling with these types of devastating thoughts. Examples of such signs may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Engaging in self-harming behaviors
  • Giving away one’s possessions
  • Acting out recklessly
  • Talking and/or writing about death
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • No longer participating in activities once enjoyed
  • Verbalizing feelings of hopelessness
  • Verbalizing feelings of worthlessness

Physical symptoms:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Panic attacks
  • Changes in physical appearance

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Concentration difficulties
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Memory problems

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Feeling as though one has no purpose
  • Feelings of panic
  • No longer finding enjoyment in things or activities once enjoyed


The effects of suicidal ideations

Children and adolescents who experience ongoing suicidal ideation are at risk for suffering from a number of negative effects. The longer that these pervasive thoughts invade a child’s mind, the more likely he or she is to begin partaking in self-harming behaviors, or even to make attempts at suicide. When such travesties occur, the following effects may result:

  • Organ failure
  • Irreversible cognitive impairment
  • Excessive blood loss
  • Anemia
  • Paralysis
  • Falling into a coma
  • Permanent scarring
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideations and co-occurring disorders

Suicidal ideation is commonly symptomatic of a mental illness. In other words, children and adolescents who are plagued with ideations of suicide are likely to be suffering from a mental health condition. The most common mental illnesses known to elicit suicidal ideation include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorders
  • Eating disorders