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Can Chronic Pain Cause Suicidal Thoughts?

“Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out all the pain!”

As wonderful as this beautiful quote, which describes the choice of joyful life for some one suffering with chronic pain! We all are blessed for having a chance to live a human life and we must live it to our fullest. Keeping aside a normal healthy life, when we come across a painful life, a person suffering from any of the harsh physical pain in his lifetime, perhaps we see a different story. Chronic pain holding the patients’ life are more than enough to get absurd thoughts of eradicating self, destroy self life and end the suffering with the pain. Yes! You read it right. There are people who suffer from so intense physical pain or the chronic pain in their body and mind that they are left with nothing more in them except the thoughts of suicides. Perhaps every individual beholding chronic pain gets once in his mind to commit suicide and get out of the everyday suffering. In this current article we will discuss if chronic pain is actually linked with suicidal thoughts. Article also describes how to come out of such miserable thoughts of ending life.

“Life is that precious to live till you are assigned for living!”

Can Chronic Pain Cause Suicidal Thoughts

Statistics Of Suicidal Thoughts Or Suicides Linked To Chronic Pain:

Here below are the lists of the statistics of suicides ideation and suicidal attempts linked to chronic pain.

  • World Health Organization statistics suggests the number of death occurring every year due to suicide is one of the leading cause of death. It is found that 16 in 100,000 people commit suicide.
  • It is also found that patient suffering from chronic pain are 2-3 times more likely to commit suicide than the normal people. 1
  • The study also reviewed that about 22% of the patient with chronic pain had passive suicidal ideations or suicidal thoughts and about 5% were in to active suicidal attempts.
  • Studies also explain that patient taking antidepressants are five times more likely to commit suicides or have suicidal thoughts and attempts.
  • The research study involving 373 patients suffering with chronic pain suggests one hundred and seventy-nine (48%) reported suicidal ideation. Among this patients 148 (39.7%) reported passive suicidal ideation and 31 (8.3%) active suicidal ideation. 2

Some Crucial Facts Related To Chronic Pain Associated with Suicidal Thoughts Or Attempts:

Below are some of the most important points related to the fact about suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts, which are linked to chronic pain in humans?

  • Studies have found that about 90% of the people committing suicides were diagnosed with some kind of previous illness, diseases, pain, depressionanxiety or alcoholism.2
  • Chronic pain has a greater chance to increase the risk of suicide and arrival of suicidal thoughts in the patient suffering with depression.
  • “Those who commit suicide, do not want to end their life, they want to end their pain” People, who commit suicide due to chronic pain, actually end their life to get rid of the pain.
  • Failure of adequate pain relief by pain medications also has greater role in failure to control mood and impulse of a person, which results in suicidal attempt. Better pain control can help people reduce the suicidal thoughts and reduce suicidal attempts.
  • Pain and suicidal association were described in 58 research papers in the past.3
  • Not everyone with chronic pain has risk of suicidal thoughts.

Chronic Pain Conditions That Might Lead To Suicidal Thoughts Or Suicide:

  1. “Not Everyone Intends Killing Self.”

    Chronic pain results in abnormal cognitive behavioral response to daily routine activities. Chronic pain suffering influences body and mind, which may follow through with ideation of ending life.

  2. “Circumstances Decides The Fate Of An Innocent”.

    1. Psychogenic Pain Causing Suicidal Ideations

      • Psychological and emotional pain results in worst phase of individual life. The emotional low is the leading cause of suicidal thoughts and suicides. Though such cases are not properly understood by expert and specialist. Patient suffering with chronic pain and severe cognitive behavioral deficiency may not understand where actually life exists and where the death lies.
    2. Chronic Pain Causing Suicide Thoughts

      • Severe back pain may cause depression and lead to various kinds of suicidal thoughts. As a saying fits, “Your back is the supportive wall of your life!” Any serious problem to the back may cause a life come down.
      • Patients suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis or any of the inflammation in joints pain may get the suicidal thoughts many times when the pain goes highly adverse and severe.
    3. Migraine-A Leading Cause For Suicidal Ideations

      • Repeated daily severe intractable headache not responding to medications and any other adjuvant treatment causes feeling of incapacitance. Migraine is one of the leading causes of suicidal thoughts and suicides.
    4. Post Injury Pain-Can Cause Suicide Thoughts

      • Many patients with debilitating injuries arising from accidents or surgeries also get suicidal thoughts.4

Impulsive Behavior & Suicidal Ideations

  • Chronic pain patient often end up in suicidal attempt when impulsive individual feels lack of trust in care giver. Suicidal ideation or attempt in chronic pain patient is associated with individual with impulsive character.5

Chronic Pain Conditions & Suicidal Ideations

In one of the study 48% of the chronic pain patient had suicidal ideation and these patients were also suffering with one of the following diseases 2

Signs And Symptoms Of Suicidal Thoughts In Chronic Pain Patients:

“This is not that real you, I ever knew in my life before!”

Signs And Symptoms Of Suicidal Thoughts In Chronic Pain Patients

There are some specific signs and symptoms seen in the patients with severe depression either caused by chronic pain or associated with severe intractable chronic pain. These symptoms often are observed by spouse or close relatives and friends. If you are one of those who want to help any of your adorable person suffering from chronic pain or depression with suicidal thoughts then you should help him to see a psychologist or psychiatrist as soon as possible before he or she attempts suicide. Moral, financial, and emotional support from family and friends is also as important as seeing a specialist physician. The close relatives, spouse and friends should look for following symptoms and sign indicating chronic pain associated with emotional breakdown leading to suicidal ideation.

Symptoms And Signs Suggesting Suicidal Ideation Associated With Chronic Pain:

  • Increasing alcoholism and smoking
  • Threatening about suicides
  • Taking irrelevant risks in life
  • Serious mental or emotional problems or sleeping issues
  • Unpredictable mood swings or anger
  • Isolation from society and friends and extremely depressive mood.

Outcome of the research study analyzing symptoms and signs of associated diseases with chronic pain in 88 patients suggests following findings.5

  • Twenty-four percent of patients reported having had Suicidal ideation
  • Unemployed/disabled patients were 6 times more likely to report Suicidal ideation.
  • Poor sleep quality was the only predictor of suicidal ideations among the physical variables.
  • Psychological well-being and depressive symptoms did not significantly predict suicidal ideations.
  • Pain-related helplessness was the only predictor for suicidal ideations among the cognitive variables.
  • Patients who had used illicit drugs as a form of pain relief at any time since pain onset were 5 times more likely to report suicidal ideations or thoughts.

How To Help Patients With Chronic Pain And Suicidal Thoughts:

  1. The Do’s:

    “There is always possibility to a life, if there is a YES for it!”

    Measures to prevent suicidal attempt depends if one is a patient or if one want to help the patient. Following measures are useful if you want to help yourself from coming out of the pain and suicidal thoughts. The suggestions are also beneficial to you if you want to help someone close in danger of suicidal thoughts or attempts.

    • Let your loved one know you care for them and listen to their pain and issues.
    • Do take professional help from associations working for suicide prevention and save your or your loved ones’ life
    • In case you or any of your loved one is suffering from chronic pain caused by illness or painful condition, then see expert for treatment to eradicate the pain and keep a high motivation level for life as soon as possible.
    • Treatment may include, medications, psychotherapy and hypnosis therapy. Goal is to eliminate or decrease pain and depression.
    • It is necessary to inform the physician to look after the mental health while prescribing the analgesics for pain relief. Because it has been found that many suicidal attempts have been through over inadequate dose of pain killers.
    • You can call 911 or National suicidal prevention Lifeline for help at the toll free number 1- 800- 271-8255
  2. The Don’ts:

    Below are some of the Don’ts which must be kept in mind while you are trying to assist your dear ones’ from suicide or suicidal thoughts.

    • Do not leave the person with suicidal thoughts alone anytime
    • Do not try to argue with such persons, especially about suicides.
    • Do not talk rudely to someone you know they who is suffering from chronic pain or depression which might lead to suicides.
    • Do not criticize or watch them low at any cost.
    • Do not talk about death or hazardous issues or terrifying news with them.

Final Note Of Inspiration For People Suffering In Silence:

“The bravest thing one can do for self is continuing his life when he utmost wants to die.”

Life is easy when you take your pain as your best inspiration that makes you feel easiest chore in life is to live! So, remove those harmful negative thoughts of ending the finest blessing from God, and try to look for some better pain relief therapy and also go for diverting your mind by encouraging some of the best hobbies you would love to be within your life.


  1. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/131056/1/9789241564779_eng.pdf?ua=1
  2. Suicidal Ideation in Patients with Fibromyalgia: A Cross-Sectional Study.
    Calandre EP1, Navajas-Rojas MA, Ballesteros J, Garcia-Carrillo J, Garcia-Leiva JM, Rico-Villademoros F.
    Pain Pract. 2014 Jan 17.
  3. The Pain Suicidality Association: A Narrative Review.
    Fishbain DA1, Lewis JE, Gao J.
    Pain Med. 2014 Jul 4.
  4. Aggression, impulsivity, and suicide risk in benign chronic pain patients – a cross-sectional study.
    Margari F1, Lorusso M2, Matera E3, Pastore A1, Zagaria G3, Bruno F4, Puntillo F4, Margari L3.
    Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2014 Sep 2;10:1613-20.
  5. Predictors of suicidal ideation in chronic pain patients: an exploratory study.
    Racine M1, Choinière M, Nielson WR.
    Clin J Pain. 2014 May;30(5):371-8.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 28, 2021

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