Suicidality & Self-harm in Adults

Suicidality in Adults

Adults of all ages are at risk for suicide, and, sadly, rates are highest among the middle-aged and have been rising steadily in the past 15 years. In adults, suicidality may manifest as feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, preoccupation with death or dying, hoping one will be killed or become fatally ill, planning one’s death, writing goodbye letters or suicide notes, or procuring means. If a person has experienced chronic depression and/or suicidal ideation and suddenly appears a great deal better, this could be a warning sign that the person has decided upon a plan. As with people of all ages, any form of suicidal thinking or behavior requires immediate assessment.


Self-harm in Adults

Research indicates that approximately 4% of adults engage in intentional self-injury. The behavior functions similarly for adults as for younger people, by providing temporary relief of emotional pain or numbness. Over time, relying on self-harm to regulate painful emotions creates a cycle of emotional avoidance that limits a person’s ability to experience pleasure and joy, and inhibits opportunities for learning and practicing other, more adaptive coping mechanisms. While in some adults self-injury serves to communicate needs and express pain and suffering, for others it is a source of great shame and leads to isolation, avoidance of experiences in which scars may be seen, and deepening loneliness and depression.