Why People Suffering from PTSD Have Suicidal Thoughts
Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide and suicide attempts, specifically as they relate to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts.
Suicide can be a tough topic to discuss among those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Though around 56% of people with PTSD experience suicidal thoughts, ideation, or actions,1 admitting to having those feelings can feel shameful.
It can be quite shocking for people to learn how prevalent suicidal thoughts and actions are among those with PTSD, but it's not surprising to me. I understand all too well how PTSD can drive a person to the edge. I've been driven there myself.
Posttraumatic stress disorder traps you in your own mind. It takes the very worst moments of your life and puts them on replay in your brain. Try as you might, it can feel impossible to stop the symptoms of PTSD from overtaking your life. Yes, there are ways to cope with it. Yes, PTSD does get better over time, but it never disappears completely. It's a nightmare that never ends.
Why PTSD Can Cause Suicidal Thoughts
Despite the hardships of PTSD and suicidal thoughts, it is possible to live a peaceful life alongside the disorder. I've managed to find moderate peace and happiness in my own life through years of hard work and dedication. But sometimes it's hard to keep up with the processes that help ground me.
Going to therapy every week and putting in that emotional effort can be draining. Trying to stay calm when I feel a panic attack rising up in my chest is tiring. Waking up after a night full of bad dreams and memories is exhausting. I constantly feel tired, and it's not a feeling that sleep can fix.
Human resiliency can only go so far. We're tough enough to get through horrible circumstances when it's required. We can survive emotional and physical trauma. We can endure grief and pain. But we can't withstand it forever, and this is why people with PTSD are sometimes driven to suicidal thoughts and actions -- they get tired of constantly fighting the war within themselves.
I have considered suicide many times throughout my PTSD journey, but it was never out of a desire to end my life. I simply wanted the pain to stop. I wanted the endless nightmares to stop. I wanted to stop feeling and remembering, but I never wanted my life to end. I wanted a life without PTSD.
I've heard other people with PTSD express the desire to go back to the way their lives were before they developed the disorder. Because my trauma started at such a young age, I can't remember a "before" time. My life has been painful for as long as I can remember. But I do relate to the desire to have a life without PTSD. Sometimes it just doesn't feel possible, and that's what drives hopeless thoughts into my life.
Finding Hope in a Life with PTSD (Without Suicidal Thoughts?)
The most important thing to remember when you're struggling with PTSD is that a life with PTSD does not have to be a bad one. PTSD might bring a lot of bad days and nights into someone's life, but it doesn't erase all the happy days and nights. For every painful memory that crops up, there are many future, joyful memories to be made.
PTSD can make things difficult, but it doesn't have to prevent you from having a happy life. You are still capable of feeling love, experiencing love, and giving love. You are still able to form friendships and relationships. You can learn to trust others again, no matter how long it may take you.
Be patient with yourself. Take the time you need to heal. Focus on your mental health and happiness. Little by little, the shattered pieces of your life will start to feel whole again. And with that healing comes peace.
If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.
For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources, and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.
- Tarrier, N., and Gregg, L., "Suicide Risk in Civilian PTSD Patients--Predictors of Suicidal Ideation, Planning, and Attempts." Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, August 2004.
Avery, B. (2019, September 16). Why People Suffering from PTSD Have Suicidal Thoughts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2019/9/why-people-suffering-from-ptsd-have-suicidal-thoughts