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Suicide in Bipolar Disorder

It is estimated that about 24% of individuals with Bipolar Disorder will die by suicide [ref].   Suicide will be attempted most commonly during Major Depressive or Mixed Episodes [ref, ref].  In addition, the following items predict a greater risk of suicide in people with Bipolar Disorder:

  • Other suicide attempts in the past.  Among people with a Depression who have been hospitalized for a suicide attempt, over 8% will eventually die by suicide [ref].
  • First degree relative (parent, sibling, offspring) who has attempted or committed suicide [ref, ref].
  • Having been physically or sexually abused in childhood [ref]
  • Having a concurrent Dissociative Disorder [ref].
  • Having a concurrent Anxiety Disorder [ref].
  • Consuming alcohol or street drugs will increase the risk of suicide while the person is under the influence of these substances [ref, ref].
  • A younger age of onset of the Bipolar Disorder [ref].
  • A tendency to be a very impulsive or aggressive person [ref, ref].
  • Intense hopelessness [ref] or a tendency to be a very pessimistic person [ref].
  • Having been recently discharged from a hospitalization for their psychiatric disorder increases the risk of suicide greatly; this risk is highest in the first month after discharge, but remains high for a full year after hospitalization [ref].
  • According to US statistics, rates of completed suicide are highest in men, the eldery, and Whites, while the groups with the highest rates of suicide attempts are women and individuals ages 15-45, both White and Black [ref].

Despite these indicators, it is often very difficult even for experienced psychiatrists to predict whether or not a person with Bipolar Disorder will attempt suicide at any given time.  Effective management of the disorder is the best way to prevent suicide attempts. 

When a person is seriously considering suicide it is very important that they or their family or friends contact a physician immediately or that the person goes immediately to an emergency room. 


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Associated Conditions (Comorbidity)