Between 25-56% of people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at some point. People who have the disorder are at 20-30 times the risk of suicide than the general population. People with bipolar disorder account for a quarter of all completed suicides. It is a serious issue and any threats or signs of suicidal behavior should not be taken lightly. Hospitalization for suicidal behavior is not uncommon. New research has found four factors that may make suicide attempts more common in people with bipolar disorder.
Research led by Angele McGrady of the University of Toledo and recently published in the journal Psychopathology surveyed 121 people with bipolar disorder. Forty-one percent had attempted suicide. The researchers found the following factors that seem to be more common in people who have attempted suicide:
1 Early age of onset of symptoms
Most people begin to develop symptoms of bipolar disorder in their mid-twenties. However, bipolar disorder can begin as early as childhood. Studies have found that the earlier a person begins to show signs of bipolar disorder, the worse the course of their illness may be over a lifetime, partly because it can take longer to receive a diagnosis. Delay in diagnosis can lead to spending more time in depression and having worse and longer episodes, all of which can lead to suicidal behavior.
2 Victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse
The researchers in this study of people who had previously attempted suicide were not able to differentiate the type of abuse as far as whether or not one type of abuse led to suicide attempts more than another. Any type of abuse, especially at younger ages, is associated with worsening development of depression and less of a response to medication. Abuse can also trigger post traumatic stress disorder in some people, which can lead to a worse course of bipolar disorder.
3 History of alcohol abuse
Substance abuse is a major issue in bipolar disorder with a rate more than seven times higher than in the general population. Around 20-30% of people with bipolar disorder have been found to abuse alcohol. History of substance abuse can worsen the course of bipolar disorder and those with substance abuse disorder may have a more difficult time responding to treatment.
4 History of psychosis
Psychosis includes experiences of delusions, hallucinations and possibly lack of emotion or expression. It can occur during either mania or depression but only occurs in bipolar I. About half of people with bipolar disorder experience psychosis at some point. People who experience psychosis with bipolar disorder tend to have higher rates of relapse and worse social and occupational functioning. All of this together can lead to a worsening course of the disorder.
If you are considering suicide there are steps you can take to help.
- Call a crisis hotline. They are there 24/7 for support.
For the U.S., call or chat online with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Internationally, find a number here: Suicide.org
For LGBTQ youth, call The Trevor Project: 1-800-4-U-TREVOR
For veterans, call or chat online with the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
- Go to the ER. Most are equipped to handle psychological emergencies.
- Call your doctor. They can give more personal direction and adjust your meds if necessary.
- Tell someone. If you are unable to get help for yourself, ask someone to do it for you, even if you think they don’t care.
Image credit: Hartwig HKD