A new study released from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) and led by Dr. Dina Popovic of the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona found out that impulsive behavior and agitated nervousness are signs linked to suicide risk in people suffering from depression.

Researchers worked with 2,811 people with depression, from which 628 had already attempted suicide. In order to identify the different signs among people who try to commit suicide and people who had not, Dr. Dina Popovic and her team interviewed each patient.

Depressed Man with Problems holding hand over his Face and Crying occupied by Mind Blowing Thoughts.
Depressed Man with Problems holding hand over his Face and Crying occupied by Mind Blowing Thoughts.

“In our opinion, assessing these symptoms in every depressed patient we see is extremely important, and has enormous therapeutical implications”, said Popovic. “Most of these symptoms will not be spontaneously referred by the patient, the clinician needs to inquire directly, and many clinicians may not be aware of the importance of looking at these symptoms before deciding to treat depressed patients”, she added.

The signs

The study’s results identified “depressive mixed states” as signs that may lead the depressed person to commit suicide in 40 percent of the cases. “A depressive mixed state is where a patient is depressed, but also has symptoms of ‘excitation,’ or mania,” said the lead author of the research.

According to the study, other symptoms include:

  • risky behavior: reckless driving, promiscuous behavior;
  • psychomotor agitation: pacing around the room, wringing one’s hand, pulling off clothes and putting it back on;
  • impulsivity: acting on a whim, displaying behavior characterized by little or no forethought reflection or consideration of the consequences.

The importance

Last July, an 18-year-old Massachusetts man named Conrad Roy III killed himself by placing a gas-powered water pump in his pickup truck and letting the carbon monoxide consume him. Although prosecutors say that Roy’s girlfriend, 17-year-old Michelle Carter, made him do it by convincing him over text messages, these signs may have alerted Roy’s parents of the risks of his son’s behavior.

According to the World Health Organization, there are around 800,000 suicide deaths annually, so an accurate diagnosis of signs that may lead to suicide must be found to stop depressed people from putting an end to their lives.

The researchers from the study also found out that the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for diagnosing depression identified only 12 percent of the patients with mixed symptoms, instead of the 40 percent they found. “This means that the standard methods are missing a lot of patients at risk of suicide”, Popovic said.

Source: European College of Neuropsychopharmacology