Sufferers of anxiety at higher risk of suicide

Anxiety plays with your thought process, leaving you feeling hopeless and depressed. Your soul empties as the stress piles up, and you start feeling alone. Your brain starts whispering, “What if I wasn’t here?” while trying to find relief from everything.

“Anxiety left untreated can lead to people feeling hopeless and having a void of hope, which is kind of the primary factor of people who actually have serious suicidal ideations,” said Lynn Gregory, a counselor at South Plains College.

“I do believe that, left untreated, anxiety plays a huge role because people feel like they just can’t go on with those kinds of emotions that the don’t know what to do with,” she added.

Richard Herbert, professor of psychology at South Plains College, said that there are six basic types of anxiety disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, Specific Phobias, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Herbert said that all six anxiety disorders deal with the sensation of a loss of control.

“An individual no longer has ‘command of the situation’, or just a sense of overwhelming powerlessness,” he explained. “That we are at mercy of other forces than just ourselves. Causing your own death is one way to imagine taking back control. If I cannot control my life, by dying I can at least stop those other forces from remaining in control.”

Herbert mentioned an article by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) that said the researchers found that “the presence of any anxiety disorder, in combination with a mood disorder, was associated with a higher likelihood of suicide attempts in comparison with a mood disorder alone.”

“The fear of dying during a panic attack is an independent risk factor for subsequent suicide attempts among individuals with depressive disorders,” added Herbert.

According to Gregory, anxiety may lead to suicidal actions because the person might get frustrated with dealing with a mountain of anxiety to the point when they feel alone and helpless, concluding that they need to end their life.

“It’s feeling like no one can help,” Gregory said. “People who are feeling suicidal are feeling hopeless. Having panic attacks or having phobias feels like the person can’t fix it, that is a false concept, because there is treatment.”

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, signs and symptoms people should be aware of in a suicidal person include changes in behavior such as increased use of alcohol or drugs, withdrawing from activities, or giving away prized possessions. Other warning signs are mentioning wanting to kill themselves, feeling hopeless, and feeling they are a burden to others. People who are considering suicide often display moods such as depression, anxiety, and agitation.

According to Herbert, poor job security or satisfaction with their job, history of being abused or witnessing continuous abuse, being socially isolated or a victim of bullying, and family history of suicide, also are possible triggers.

Gregory explained that a person might also say that they are not sleeping or eating. Also, selfharm, such as acting out against themselves and cutting themselves, can be warning signs.

Another risk factor is alcoholism and drug abuse, according to Gregory.

“Any mental health disorder increases an individual’s risk of suicide ideation and/or attempt,” Herbert said.

Gregory stated that there are different levels of suicide.

“Somebody might just have fleeting thoughts of ‘I don’t want to be here anymore, life sucks’,” she said. “The other end of this spectrum is a serious, suicidal person who has been planning suicide.”

According to Herbert anxiety and mood disorders are probably most frequently associated with suicide attempts. However, he said that depression tops that list because it is the feeling of being “trapped.

Herbert also said that panic attacks is probably the leading anxiety disorder as a factor in suicidal attempts.
“Usually, the causes of the onset of the panic attacks have to do with extremely stressful situations where we do not feel like we have any control,” Herbert said.

According to Herbert, panic attacks with physical/biological origins are different, and a person will have to see a doctor before the panic attacks subside.

Herbert said that men, people age 45 and older, and certain races, such as Caucasians, American Indians, or Alaskan Natives, have shown to be at a higher risk for suicide.

“Depressive moods are the most likely moods to indicate suicide ideation,” Herbert said. “Increases in anxiety, especially for no apparent reason, are also indicative of suicide ideation.”

Gregory said there is help available for those who are having suicidal thoughts, such as outpatient therapy.

“For somebody that’s having those feelings,” said Gregory, “I would never try to hold that inside and just feel like you can cope with this by yourself. I would at least tell a friend.”

Gregory said telling a friend is a good bystander intervention, which is like the buddy system.

“It’s making sure that you take care of your friend,” she explained. “It’s the whole array of things. You could take your friend to the emergency room. You could call the Star Care intake number. You could sit with that person and not let them be alone.”

Gregory encourages people who are having dark thoughts to tell a friend so the friend can make sure they get the help that is needed.

Herbert suggests calling prevention lifelines such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, while Gregory suggests a call to Contact Lubbock at Contactlubbock.org, or text 741741. SPC students can go to the Health and Wellness Center to talk to any of the counselors at both the Levelland and Reese campuses.

“If someone is repeatedly suffering from anxiety attacks and not seeking help, the best thing to do is to get them help,” Herbert said. “If they have tried to get help but do not improve, then watch for the mood changes of anxious and frustrated to calm and serene. When someone is suffering from anxiety disorders rapidly moves from anxious and frustrated to calm and serene, it can be an indicator that they have decided upon suicide, and that they are at peace with that decision.”