Suicide in PTSD Patients
Due to traumatic events, the onset of PTSD, and the possibility of co-occurring mental illnesses, PTSD patients are more susceptible to suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Studies have shown that the connection between PTSD and suicide is because of the guilt, sadness, shame, and other intense symptoms that come with PTSD and its possible coinciding conditions. Traumatic incidents are also the root of suicidal tendencies, especially when it causes the onset of PTSD. Many people don’t realize the severity of PTSD and how drastically it can increase the probability of suicide. Here are some statistics about PTSD related suicides.
- Suicide associated with PTSD is reported to be the 10th leading cause of death in the USA.
- About 22% of patients who have PTSD as the result of rape have attempted suicide
- Almost a quarter of individuals who have PTSD from sexual assault from childhood have attempted suicide
- Around 37% of those with PTSD are at risk of suicide, also known as a severe case
- of PTSD patients who experience suicidal idealization, a majority of them developed PTSD as a result of combat
PTSD Related Substance Abuse
Post-traumatic stress disorder has fairly strong ties to the development of substance abuse. Studies have shown that an immense amount of stress that can result from developing PTSD causes anxiety, sadness, and general discontent. When patients with PTSD are not being treated or don’t have the proper coping mechanisms, they can easily turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate.
Drugs decrease anxious feelings and often increase the amount of dopamine present in the brain, which is the chemical that causes happiness, joy, and content. However, when the substance wears off, the dopamine levels become low again, often times lower than before the drugs were used. Just as dopamine levels decrease, the symptoms of PTSD or other mental illnesses often become much worse after the drugs wear off. The drugs are originally used as a way to cope with PTSD, but as they are continued to be used to self-medicate, addiction becomes more and more possible. The onset of addiction coupled with the original symptoms of PTSD makes things tremendously harder for the patient to deal with.
Due to these negative effects caused by using drugs as a coping mechanism, substance abuse is classified as a self-injurious behavior. Often times, self-injury is used in an attempt to cope with a mental illness like PTSD. Just as most self-injurious behavior, substance abuse makes things much worse than before.
Since there are so many feelings of guilt, shame, and sadness, self-harming can quickly become a PTSD’s coping mechanism of choice. Whether they self-harm in an attempt to deal with their feelings, punish themselves, or match their physical state to their emotional state, it always makes things much worse. Self-harming behaviors often take place in younger individuals especially teenagers. This is because around 93% of those who self-harm were sexually abused as children. Patients try and cope with the memories and flashbacks of being sexually abused or other traumatic events by harming themselves purposely. Here are the most common methods used to harm oneself:
- scratching one’s body to the point of marking and/or bleeding
- hitting body parts with objects or fist to the point of bruising
- cutting (the most common form of self-harm)
- ripping or tearing of the skin
- carving words or symbols into the body, usually words that are derogatory to the patient
- ensuring that scars or scabs from self-harming don’t heal
- pulling out one’s hair (most often used as a form of punishment)
It’s important to remember that these methods are extremely damaging, and should be stopped immediately before they become an addictive behavior. Seek help immediately if you or someone you know is self-harming.