Suicidal Ideation Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Understanding the signs, symptoms, and possible effects of co-occurring suicidal ideation can be an important first step on the path toward improved health. Sierra by the Sea in Newport Beach, California, is proud to be a source of accurate and relevant information about the impact of co-occurring suicidal ideation.

Understanding Suicidal Ideation

Learn about co-occurring suicidal ideation

Important note: If you or someone you care about is in imminent danger of suicide, get emergency help immediately. Call 911, summon your local first responders, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Suicidal ideation is a clinical term that refers to thoughts about attempting to end one’s own life. Suicidal ideation can be an unhealthy response to overwhelming stress, a traumatic event, or a significant loss. It can also be a symptom of a mental health disorder.

The term suicidal ideation can encompass a wide range of thoughts, including brief consideration, recurring mental images, and the development of a detailed plan.

When a person who has developed a substance use disorder has thoughts of suicide, the presence of these thoughts is often referred to as co-occurring suicidal ideation.

On its own, addiction can have a profound negative impact on a person’s life. When an individual’s struggles with addiction are accompanied by co-occurring suicidal ideation, the potential for lasting harm can increase exponentially.

If you or someone you care about has been experiencing co-occurring suicidal ideation, please know that you are not alone, and that help is available.

What’s most important is finding a center that offers comprehensive, personalized care for addiction and co-occurring suicidal ideation. At a center such as Sierra by the Sea, experienced professionals can identify the causes of your co-occurring suicidal ideation and provide you with the therapeutic support you need to overcome these self-defeating thought patterns and achieve improved mental health.


Statistics about suicidal ideation

Since suicidal ideation refers to thoughts, it is not possible to accurately document how common this experience is. However, statistics from reputable organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) provide insights into the prevalence of suicidal ideation in the United States:

Causes & Risk Factors for Suicidal Ideation

Potential causes of suicidal ideation

The likelihood that any individual will experience suicidal ideation can be affected by a variety of personal factors. No single cause or set of causes is responsible for all cases of suicidal ideation. The following are among the many internal and external factors that may influence your risk for suicidal ideation:

  • Gender (The suicide rate is significantly higher among men and boys than it is among women and girls. However, research suggests that the rate of suicidal ideation is higher among females than it is among males.)
  • Age (In the United States, the rate of suicide is highest among adults ages 45-65.)
  • History of mental illness within your family
  • Personal history of addiction, mental health disorders, or trauma
  • Being abused, neglected, or otherwise exposed to adversity during childhood
  • Being exposed to significant stress or pressure
  • Possessing substandard stress management capabilities

Signs & Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation

Symptoms of suicidal ideation

As is also the case with the causes and risk factors for suicidal ideation, there is no single universal set of signs and symptoms to indicate that a person is thinking about ending their own life. The signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation can vary considerably from person to person depending on a wide range of individual factors.

However, in general, the following behavioral, physical, and mental signs may indicate that a person has been experiencing suicidal ideation or has developed a mental health disorder that is commonly associated with suicidal ideation:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Crying or having angry outbursts for no apparent reason
  • Acting with uncharacteristic recklessness, aggression, or violence
  • Ending their participation in activities that were once of great significance to them
  • Giving away (or throwing away) objects of great personal or sentimental value
  • Frequently talking about death or dying
  • Expressing the belief that family, friends, or the world in general would be better off if they were gone
  • Withdrawing from friends and family members
  • Persistently criticizing themselves or otherwise speaking negatively of themselves

Physical symptoms:

  • Significant changes in sleep patterns, including both insomnia and hypersomnia
  • Dramatic changes in appetite, leading to unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Failing to tend to personal appearance, hygiene, or grooming
  • Diminished energy levels and persistent fatigue

Mental symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Diminished ability to concentrate or focus
  • Overwhelming sense of sadness, dread, or fear
  • Poor self-image
  • Significant unexplainable shifts in mood
  • Recurrent intrusive thoughts of death and dying

Effects of Suicidal Ideation

The negative impact of suicidal ideation

When a person needs, but does not receive, effective professional care for a substance use disorder and co-occurring suicidal ideation, they remain at increased risk for a variety of negative outcomes. In addition to the persistent danger that the individual may act on their suicidal thoughts, the following are among the many other potential effects of untreated co-occurring suicidal ideation:

  • Strained or ruined relationships with family members, friends, peers, or colleagues
  • Academic setbacks
  • Unsatisfactory performance at work
  • Job loss and chronic unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Medical problems due to reckless behaviors or poor self-care
  • Onset or worsening of other mental health symptoms
  • Social withdrawal
  • Isolation
  • Pervasive sense of hopelessness and helplessness


Anyone who has been experiencing any thoughts of suicide should be brought to the attention of a qualified professional. With the right type and level of care, you can limit your risk for continued harm and begin to heal from past damage. With proper professional assistance, you can achieve long-term recovery from addiction and overcome suicidal ideation.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who develop DISORDER

Suicidal ideation is often, but not always, symptomatic of a mental health disorder. The following are among the more common disorders that have been associated with suicidal ideation:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

When you receive comprehensive care from an effective provider such as Sierra by the Sea, you’ll complete a thorough assessment to determine if your struggles with addiction and co-occurring suicidal ideation are accompanied by one of the mental health disorders listed above. Once your team has identified the full scope of your needs, they can develop the personalized plan that will help you achieve improved mental health.

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous