Distorted, Negative Thoughts Linked to Suicide Risk

THURSDAY, May 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People who have highly negative opinions of themselves and gloomy thoughts about the future may be at increased risk for attempting suicide, new research suggests.

The study included 111 people who had attempted suicide within 30 days before the start of the study and 57 people who received emergency psychiatric treatment (but had not attempted suicide) in the two years prior to the study.

Those who attempted suicide were more likely to have what the researchers called "distorted thinking." This includes a low sense of self-worth, negative comparisons with others and being highly critical of themselves.

The finding that these people are more likely to attempt suicide held true even after the researchers took into account depression and feelings of hopelessness, according to the study in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research.

The study also found that people who attempted suicide were highly likely to believe that bad things would happen to them in the future. However, when the researchers took feelings of hopelessness into account, catastrophic thoughts about the future were no longer strongly linked with attempted suicide.

This may be because feelings of hopelessness and negative thoughts about the future are overlapping issues, according to study leader Shari Jager-Hyman, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and colleagues.

"To prevent suicides, therapists would benefit from directly targeting patients' thoughts of hopelessness in clinical interventions," Jager-Hyman said in a journal news release.

"A cognitive approach can help patients evaluate their beliefs that negative outcomes will inevitably occur, and show them how to entertain other possible options. This can help to minimize patients' thoughts of hopelessness, help them to cope better, and ideally decrease their suicidal ideation and behaviors," she explained.

Each year in the United States, nearly 40,000 people commit suicide.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about suicide prevention.

SOURCE: Cognitive Therapy and Research, news release, April 28, 2014