A person with a blank gaze looks downward while receiving comforting support with a hand on their shoulder. Suicidal thoughts can be devastating, but professional support can help.

How to Manage Suicidal Intrusive Thoughts and Seek Professional Support

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If you’ve been struggling with suicidal intrusive thoughts or intrusive thoughts of self-harm, know that you are not alone. It can feel extremely overwhelming and frightening — like life has suddenly become completely unmanageable — but there is support available to help you find ways to cope with what is happening in your mind. 

Here, we’ll discuss the causes and triggers of suicidal intrusive thoughts and why it’s so important to seek professional support so you can learn the skills you need to build a healthier relationship with yourself.

What are suicidal intrusive thoughts?

Suicidal intrusive thoughts are a painful and scary experience. They happen when a person becomes preoccupied with thoughts of hurting themselves or ending their life. These thoughts can come out of nowhere and disrupt daily activities, affecting your mental health on many levels.

Understanding suicidal intrusive thoughts: causes and triggers

Understanding the causes of suicidal intrusive thoughts is crucial in finding effective ways to manage them. Suicidal intrusive thoughts are commonly linked to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Traumatic experiences, substance abuse, and chronic stress can also play a role in their onset. Moreover, suicidal intrusive thoughts may be triggered by events like seeing suicide-related news or hearing stories of people who have lost their lives to suicide.

Suicidal intrusive thoughts vs. suicidal ideation 

It’s important to note that suicidal intrusive thoughts and suicidal ideation are two different things. Suicidal ideation refers to the act of thinking about or considering suicide (passive suicidal ideation) or planning suicide (active suicidal ideation). Suicidal intrusive thoughts, on the other hand, are unwanted, intrusive, and unwelcome. They are usually involuntary, meaning you don’t have any control over them. 

In some cases, suicidal intrusive thoughts may be a symptom of OCD. People with OCD experience unwanted, obsessive thoughts and resort to repetitive behaviors as an attempt to deal with these thoughts. When these obsessions mainly involve thoughts and images about attempting suicide, the condition is sometimes referred to as “suicidal OCD.” Those with suicidal OCD don’t want to die. The obsessive thoughts about suicide are unwanted, involuntary, and unable to be controlled without help.

Should someone seek help for suicidal intrusive thoughts?

If you’re experiencing suicidal intrusive thoughts due to OCD or otherwise, seeking help is essential. Know that you’re not alone, and professional help is available. The stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health conditions can make it hard to open up about your struggles, but talking to a mental health professional, family member, or friend about suicidal intrusive thoughts can save your life.

Seeking help from a licensed mental health professional such as a therapist is especially important in helping you get the care you need to cope with suicidal intrusive thoughts. Certain talk therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) have been shown to be effective in treating suicidal intrusive thoughts. 

CBT helps you identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviors, and helps you shift those thoughts and behaviors so they align with your goals and overall well-being. With DBT, a therapist helps you validate or accept uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Then, they’ll help you find balance between acceptance and change and help you learn new coping skills and mindfulness techniques.

Coping mechanisms and managing suicidal intrusive thoughts

Building coping mechanisms with the help of a mental health professional can make a significant difference in managing suicidal intrusive thoughts. The coping mechanisms you learn in therapy can be used outside of therapy sessions, too, to help you stay on track. These include practicing self-care, mindfulness, deep-breathing, and journaling to help you manage your emotions and thoughts effectively.

Seeking help is the first step

Remember, suicidal intrusive thoughts are not a reflection of who you are as a person, and you deserve to get support. Seeking professional help is a brave first step toward feeling better and living a life free of suicidal intrusive thoughts. If you’re ready to speak to a licensed professional, SonderMind is here to help. Let us know what you’re looking for, and we’ll connect you with someone who specializes in suicidal intrusive thoughts and meets your unique needs. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help right away. Call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or find other suicide prevention resources here.

Last Updated:
First Published:
June 5, 2023

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