Anxiety issues affect approximately one third of the population. It is a very common experience, and individuals with anxiety often also experience other mental health conditions such as posttraumatic stress (PTSD), major depression (MDD), intermittent depression (IDD), substance abuse, and self-injurious behaviors. Although not everyone with anxiety has suicidal ideations or attempts suicide, many do.
To better understand what factors increase the risk of suicide in people with anxiety, Lisa Anne Uebelacker of the Department of Psychiatry at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in Rhode Island recently led a study examining various physical, psychological, and demographic factors in a sample of 676 individuals diagnosed with anxiety. She assessed their conditions and suicide attempts over a 12-year period.
Uebelacker discovered that the strongest predictors of future suicide attempts were previous suicide attempt, MDD, and IDD. Other risk factors included pain, epilepsy, PTSD, and impaired social and work functioning. “In this sample, no specific anxiety disorder provided predictive power above and beyond MDD, IDD, and history of suicide attempts,” said Uebelacker.
She clarified this finding by noting that the entire sample had anxiety, and thus were already at increased risk for suicide when compared to individuals without anxiety. But, no specific anxiety-related condition appeared to be independently significant for suicide risk. Other issues like self-harm and general mood issues also increased the likelihood of suicide attempts.
Interestingly, risk factors suggested by other research, like being female and being unmarried did not increase suicidal ideation in this sample of participants. Uebelacker believes that could be due to the fact that women are more likely to have mood issues like anxiety, and therefore could have been overrepresented in previous research.
In sum, the findings of this study show that although people with anxiety are at risk for suicide, those with comorbid depressive conditions and prior suicidal histories are most vulnerable to future suicide attempts and should be monitored closely for self-harm and other behaviors that might lead to suicide.
Uebelacker, L. A., et al. (2013). Prospective study of risk factors for suicidal behavior in individuals with anxiety disorders. Psychological Medicine 43.7 (2013): 1465-74. ProQuest. Web.
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