Thoughts of suicide are one of the warning signs for mental health and emotional well-being people, and their presence implies that the risk of a suicide attempt is relatively high.
Fortunately, the world of psychology has developed forms of intervention to help these people. Here we will talk about one of the most effective, cognitive behavioral therapy.
What are suicidal thoughts?
Suicidal ideation is the tendency to see suicide as a real possibility, even as something clearly desirable and for which one must prepare – due to the psychological discomfort he is suffering from.
Of course, suicidal ideation does not have clearly defined boundaries and is presented on a gray scale, which means that this problem can also be detected in those who think they are not seriously considering suicide, although in many cases. times they “fantasize” about the idea.
On another side, suicidal thoughts are not in themselves a psychological disorder, But a phenomenon that can occur alongside a variety of psychopathologies and psychiatric disorders. While it is common to associate thoughts of suicide with depression and in fact this disorder greatly increases the chances of developing them, the truth is that these can appear alongside other mental disorders, some of which do not. not even part of mood disorders.
In any case, this is a concept that belongs to the clinical realm and, as such, it is not possible to self-diagnose suicidal ideation, as only mental health professionals can assess to what extent this psychological phenomenon is present in a particular person, taking into account their characteristics and their life context.
What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
When we talk about cognitive behavioral therapy, we are referring to a set of therapeutic interventions in patients that have one fundamental aspect in common: focus on helping people by intervening both in their observable actions and in their habits of interaction with the environment, As for the way they think, feel, generate and maintain beliefs.
Indeed, those of us who use it in a cognitive-behavioral intervention model help people on the premise that we need to create a synergy between what is done and what is thought, progressing on both. fronts so that the change for the better is easier and stronger, remaining consistent and constant in the life of the person. Which means it is easier to develop healthy and adaptive mental processes if at the same time we develop online actions with this psychological transformation.
Cognitive behavioral therapy arose out of the research of psychologists Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck, who each in their own way hypothesized that many psychological issues in people are related to the way in which people’s mental patterns condition their behavior. way they interpret what happens to. them and even their own identity. Moreover, these cognitive patterns predispose people to behave in a way that confirms this way of understanding the world.
But just as the mind affects behavior, so it does the other way around: changing the behaviors and situations to which we are exposed helps to think and experience emotions in a different way. Thus, psychological well-being can be promoted through this dual path, by intervening in the ideas, habits and exercises to be practiced to learn to relate differently to the world.
How does this apply to people who have thoughts of suicide?
Entire volumes could be written on the use of cognitive behavioral therapy applied to people with suicidal ideation, and this article is not intended to go into detail.
In addition, it is important to clarify that this type of therapeutic intervention is not based on a series of fixed instructions to apply as someone who reads a prescription, but understands many strategies and techniques and furthermore how they are put into practice depends on the disorder or problem presented by the patient, the environments and people to whom it is exposed, their personality traits and habits, etc.
In view of the above, here we will look at some of the keys to understanding the role of cognitive behavioral therapy used in suicidal thoughts, and why it is effective.
1. It helps to understand the emotions attached to these thoughts.
Thoughts of suicide are almost always linked to a heavy emotional burdenBut not all people who experience it are able to understand exactly what these emotional forces are behind suicidal thoughts. The latter leads them not to critically analyze the “radical” and clear solutions that come to their mind, such as suicide.
Confronted with this, cognitive behavioral therapy improves self-knowledge through exercises and habits that train patients to recognize their own emotions and feelings, as well as their impact on the thoughts that pass through their minds and the habits they adopt to deal with the discomfort generated by some of these sensations.
2. Help find new incentive systems
Cognitive behavioral therapy makes it easier to find exciting projects and tasks, with the ability to emotionally mobilize the person and get them to set short and long term goals, regardless of the possibility of suicide. This is so because of the bidirectional structure of the cognitive-behavioral model: on the one hand, it favors the exposure of the person to new situations and the break with the habits linked to suicidal ideas, and on the other hand it offers you an alternative reality interpretation that allows you to be more sensitive to the good things that life has to offer.
3. Support a healthier lifestyle
We should never underestimate how fitness influences the way we feel emotionally. From cognitive behavioral therapy, a series of guidelines are established so that people with suicidal ideation, many of whom feel very unmotivated about doing anything, gradually incorporate healthy habits into their lives. daily., Starting with the simpler ones, then working your way up to more complex behaviors.
The main areas of action are quality of sleep, good nutrition and maintenance of physical activity as much as possible.
4. It allows you to challenge beliefs that have negative biases
Once you have given enough thought to the idea of suicide, it is common for a self-confirmation logic to be generated in this pessimistic way of interpreting life, because, although it seems paradoxical, having beliefs as contradictory as those which support the idea of suicide and at the same time those which show that it is worth living, generates somehow both or more of the disadvantages such as giving credit only to the first.
Thus, it gives rise to confirmation bias: everything that happens to us is interpreted as proof that we were right, which in this case means suicide is the way out.
Therefore, in cognitive behavioral therapy, people are helped to replace these harmful beliefs with others, and at the same time, they are helped to have experiences that help them break down this old frame of thought.
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- American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington, DC: author.
- Fergusson, DM; Woodward, LJ; Horwood, LJ (2000). Risk factors and life processes associated with the onset of suicidal behavior in adolescence and early adulthood. Psychological Medicine, 30 (1): pages 23-39.
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- Zisook, S .; Minor instant messaging; Lebowitz, B .; Rush, AJ; Kallenberg, G .; Wisniewski, SR; et al. (2011). Effect of antidepressant drug therapy on suicidal ideation and behavior in a randomized trial: an exploratory report of the study of combination drugs to improve depression outcomes. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 72 (10): pages 1322 to 1332.