Suicide Risk With OCD Is Greater Than Most People Realize


The risk for suicide among those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has traditionally been considered low.

Now, a Swedish study suggests that people with OCD are at ten times greater risk for suicide, and the primary predictor is an earlier suicide attempt.

Suicide and OCD

Approximately 90 percent of suicide deaths are committed by those with a mental health disorder, yet scant attention has been given to the suicide risk among individuals suffering from OCD. This is a little surprising since OCD is one of the more common psychiatric disorders.

OCD is a mental health condition characterized by distressing, repetitive thoughts that generate severe anxiety. To relieve the anxiety, compulsive or ritualistic behaviors are performed. OCD is generally a chronic condition, and typically results in a substantially diminished quality of life, but historically has not been linked to high risk for suicidal behavior.

Creating Awareness

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden decided to determine the actual risk for suicide among people with OCD, and what the protective factors for this group might be. To accomplish this they studied 40 years worth of data from the Swedish national registers.

The investigators found that death by suicide was about ten times greater, and the risk for attempted suicide five times greater for those with OCD, than in the general population. After adjusting for other disorders the risk was reduced, but still substantial. It was further discovered that:

  • The primary predictor of OCD-related death by suicide was a previous suicide attempt.
  • The suicide risk was increased when individuals also had a personality disorder, or substance use disorder.
  • The risk for suicide is apparently reduced by three protective factors: being a woman, having a higher socioeconomic status, and having an anxiety disorder.

Awareness of this suicide risk may help those with OCD remain safe. The researchers hope their work will alert patients, families, and clinicians that, even if there are no other psychiatric conditions present, those with OCD are at significant risk for suicide—especially if an earlier attempt were made.

If You Need Help

Anyone who is struggling with mental health issues and needs immediate support can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK); or, go to the SuicideHotlines website (link below) to find state supported help.

If you ever feel that you can no longer keep yourself safe, go to the nearest Emergency Department, or call 911.

Sources: Science Daily; Suicide Prevention Lifeline; Suicide Hotlines
Photo credit: Sander van der Wel

ocd self test
Do you or a loved one feel like you might have a problem with OCD? Take the Self Test now to get more information.

The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Click here to read our complete Terms of Use.

Susbscribe to our free newsletter for information & inspiration

Email Social