Suicide and OCD: New Study Determines High Risk


Though it's generally known that people suffering from mental health conditions are at greater risk for death by suicide, few people realize how high the suicide risk is for those with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

OCD’s anxiety provoking obsessions and anxiety relieving compulsive behaviors tend to be chronic, and can significantly diminish a person’s quality of life. Yet, the suicide risk with OCD has traditionally been thought low.

Determining the Risk

To better determine the suicide risk among those struggling with OCD, and to discover factors that protect against suicide in the OCD population, researchers looked at 40 plus years of data in the Swedish National Patient Register.

In the Register, investigators identified 36,788 OCD patients and discovered 545 of them died by suicide, and another 4,297 attempted taking their life. This suggests the risk for suicide is about ten times greater for OCD sufferers than for the general population, and the risk of attempted suicide is five times greater.

Although this information may be disconcerting for those who have, or care about someone with OCD, heightened awareness about the increased potential for suicidal behavior can save lives. The researchers, for instance, warn that:

  • With, OCD, the primary predictor of death by suicide is a previous suicide attempt.
  • Other issues increasing OCD suicide risk are substance abuse, and having a personality disorder.

Factors that apparently reduce suicide risk with OCD are a higher socioeconomic standing, being female, and having an anxiety disorder.

Staying Safe

Even without other psychiatric conditions, the researchers concluded that people with OCD are at significant risk for suicide. This means anyone struggling with OCD is wise to ask for professional help - or at the very least have trusted people to confide in - and those who care about a person with OCD should not be afraid to talk with them about any observed suicidal behaviors.

Suicidal behaviors include giving away possessions, talking about death or dying, withdrawing from social contact or pleasurable activities, risky behaviors, increased substance use, and saying goodbye to loved ones. Other signs are hopelessness, self-loathing, sudden personality changes, extreme agitation, anxiety, or emotional pain, feeling trapped, or helpless, psychosis, and paranoia.

If you have OCD and are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself please call 911, or go to your nearest emergency room right away.

Sources: Science Daily
Photo credit: Giorgio Montersino

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