Distorted Thought Patterns and Suicide Attempts

distorted thought patternsNew research strongly suggests that health care providers focus on identifying suicidal individuals through their distorted and catastrophic thoughts about the future.[1]

“Such thoughts are characteristic of those who attempt suicide, ” said clinical psychologist Dr. Shari Jager-Hyman of the University of Pennsylvania.1

Jager-Hyman led a study that focused on how distorted thoughts influence suicidal patients who seek emergency psychiatric treatment.1 For the study, researchers recruited a large and ethnically-diverse group of 168 participants from emergency departments and psychiatric inpatient units in Philadelphia.1 Of this group, 111 individuals had attempted suicide in the 30 days prior to the study.1 The other 57 participants were receiving emergency psychiatric treatment but had not tried to commit suicide in the two years before the study.1

This study is the first to use the Inventory of Cognitive Distortions, a 69-item self-report questionnaire that is designed to be used among many clinical populations to measure cognitive distortions in people who have recently tried to commit suicide.1 Individuals who have more distorted thoughts are more likely to attempt suicide.1 These distorted thoughts include what they think about their own self-worth, how they negatively compare themselves to others, and how they place derogatory labels on themselves.1

These findings added to the weight of the many theories that state that suicidal people have unique cognitive styles by which they misinterpret or wrongly process experiences and stimuli.1 People who attempt suicide are also prone to predicting and firmly believing that negative things will happen in their future.1

“To prevent suicides, therapists would benefit from directly targeting patients’ thoughts of hopelessness in clinical interviews,” said Jager-Hyman. “A cognitive approach can help patients evaluate their beliefs that negative outcomes will inevitably occur, and show them how to entertain other possible options. This can help to minimize patients’ thoughts of hopelessness, help them cope better, and ideally decrease their suicidal ideation and behaviors.”1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Distorted Thought Patterns Linked to Suicide Attempts. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/04/29/distorted-thought-patterns-linked-to-suicide-attempts/69134.html

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