When it comes to seeking self-help to support our mental health, the question of whether one needs a psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor or coach is often the first stumbling block. Read more to find out what would be best for you.
Trigger warning – this post discusses suicidal feelings
Are suicidal thoughts normal?
Sometimes life can feel overwhelming, and not seeing a solution may lead to thoughts of suicide. There are many reasons why these types of thoughts appear. Having constant intrusive thoughts of suicide requires attention – there is a reason for this, and you should seek professional advice.
Suicidal thoughts can sometimes show up in the mind because of an external trigger (e.g., seeing a suicide attempt in a movie), which is usually nothing to worry about. It’s normal to have thoughts going through the mind that could be considered as “uncomfortable”,” immoral”, or even “crazy”.
Your brain is producing thoughts all the time – it is believed that around 100,000 or more words daily are produced by the brain. Positive thoughts induce good and nice feelings, whereas negative thoughts can leave us feeling rubbish – it’s normal. Suicidal thoughts are not particularly “nice” and when experienced regularly and obsessively as intrusions, they can be distressing and a sign of mental illness.
If these thoughts are accompanied by thoughts of action (i.e., going through with it), and there are plans on how and when to do it, then the risk to life can be real. In this case, you should seek immediate help from a qualified mental health professional for a risk to life assessment.
What causes suicidal thoughts?
Suicidal thoughts are like any other thought that is automatically produced by the brain. It is important to remember that thoughts are not “the truth”. Thoughts do not mean that the action should follow.
Thoughts can be positive or negative. A positive flow of thoughts is a sign of good mental health and although it’s normal to have some negative thoughts coming up, if most of them are negative, then it’s worth seeking help (CBT/EMDR therapy).
Regular or constant suicidal thoughts can be a sign of depression or an anxiety disorder. For example, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) may cause regular intrusive suicidal thoughts, which can be frightening. This does not necessarily mean that there is any immediate danger of following through with them though.
Suicidal thoughts can also happen due to manipulation. For example, by following a group (often via social media) where committing suicide is discussed or even encouraged as a “dare” or as the “only solution”. Brainwashing of this kind is particularly dangerous to younger people.
Should I be worried if I have them?
Worrying about suicide is not dangerous, but having the intention and a plan to execute it is. Feeling “trapped” for whatever reason (big debt or grief) can lead to suicidal ideation. Suicide can feel like the only “solution”, or “the only way out”. When life seems unmanageable, it is normal to feel confused, especially when the solution is not obvious. This does not, however, mean that there is no solution. There is always another solution out there.
When I see people thinking of suicide as a “way out”, I always suggest not focusing on those thoughts while having a CBT/EMDR therapy session. I know that those feelings will change with time and looking back, often the solution becomes clearer- and it is NEVER suicide! What is needed is effective CBT therapy support and possibly also EMDR (if there is historical trauma).
Which is better for suicidal thoughts, CBT or EMDR?
If you are wondering whether CBT works for suicidal thoughts or whether EMDR would be better, both therapies can be beneficial. Suicidal thoughts are NEVER the root problem. When the primary issue is targeted and solved, then suicidal thoughts also disappear.
The aim is to focus on the issue that is causing the suicidal thoughts to appear in the first place. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is proved to be an effective treatment as it can shed a light on what the problem causing those thoughts is. CBT can also help with coping strategies to manage emotions, so the suicidal thoughts would subside.
What is the difference between CBT and EMDR?
CBT would help to understand that thinking can be habitual too. Just like bad behavioural habits can be changed by CBT, so can thinking habits. How we respond to life is determined by our thinking habits, which are learned from the parents. So, if your parents’ thinking was overly critical and negative, and they did not teach you how to deal with a crisis, then it can really feel like suicide is the only option. If you’d like to understand more about how CBT works, you can find out here.
EMDR is a different approach and may work best if there is an underlying unprocessed past trauma, or if the feeling of “doom” is caused by a belief of low self-worth. It can also help when the suicidal ideation “makes no logical sense”, meaning that everything is seemingly “ok” in life, but feelings or thoughts of suicide are still regularly present.
If you’d like to book a session with one of our specialist therapists, you can do so here.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org
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