Chronic pain makes many sufferers contemplate suicide

According to new research patients suffering chronic pain are more likely than others to consider suicide.

A study by researchers in the United States found this increased risk remained even when the possible effect of mental illness was accounted for and the researchers say it provides further evidence of the need to be aware of the heightened risk for suicide in those with chronic pain.

Lead study author Dr. Mark Ilgen, says the research shows that more work needs to be done in identifying those likely to be at the greatest risk and what interventions will decrease this risk.

The study by Dr. Ilgen and his colleagues set out to gain a perspective on the link between pain and suicide amongst the public as most research had only examined the issue in patients already receiving treatment for their pain.

Dr. Ilgen, a psychologist at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Michigan, says pain is one of those factors that may make someone feel more hopeless and less optimistic about the future and increases the chances that they will think about suicide, but the vast majority of people experiencing any of these forms of pain are not suicidal.

For the study the researchers examined information collected during a 2001 to 2003 epidemiological survey of 5,692 English-speaking adults in the United States who answered questions about chronic pain and suicidal thoughts in the last 12 months.

They found after adjusting the figures to account for the effect of mental illness and chronic physical conditions, that those who suffered from head pain were almost twice as likely as others to report having suicidal thoughts and were also more than two times as likely to report suicide attempts.

The researchers also found that those with other types of pain not related to arthritis were four times as liable to have tried to commit suicide and almost 14% of those with three or more pain conditions reported suicidal thoughts - almost 6% of these also reported a suicide attempt.

Experts say people accustomed to pain might think they could tolerate suicide but the natural and deep fear of pain, injury and death stops people from hurting themselves, and this includes people who have high desire for suicide and this might not be as difficult for someone who has already had to contend with a great deal of physical pain.

This say such a view attracts little attention because in the public mind, a kind of fearlessness does not seem to fit with suicide but in this case the public mind is mistaken

The study findings appear in the November/December issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.

Posted in: Medical Research News

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  1. Joe Joe United States says:

    Gee, who paid for this grant and why?

    It does not take a genius to put pain and suicide together. "Dr. Mark Ilgen, says the research shows that more work needs to be done in identifying those likely to be at the greatest risk and what interventions will decrease this risk."  

    Hey, doc I walk into things in the dark.  How do I decrease that risk?
    Well those in pain think about suicide.  How do you decrease that risk?

    This is an example highly trained people chasing the obvious.

    • Nicole Nicole United States says:

      As a chronic pain sufferer, whose conditions go under-diagnosed and when diagnosed go untreated, I can authoritatively state that treating the conditions that cause the pain would significantly lower, if not eliminate, the related depression and MY DESIRE TO CEASE LIVING IN CHRONIC UNRELENTING PAIN!

      I have specific, treatable problems, back and neck pain that has become unbearable and i need to lie down all day, all night, every day of my life. I have developed other conditions, cannot sit stand or walk, cannot be intimate with my partner of ten years, cannot wear clothing because it hurts so much, and so much of this could be treated if a doctor could bother to make the appropriate referrals and follow up, and if my insurance would cover what would help me most, MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE. Degenerative conditions in my spine could be treated.

      FIX the problems, the core problems, and depression and suicide would all but disappear. There would be no risk of depression/suicide if I weren't in intractable pain at the age of 47, having degenerated steadily since the age of 41. Some one could help me but they won't. Spend the money on treating patients instead of researching the obvious. The doctors will figure out that they could have helped me when the autopsy is done in a few months.

    • Nicole Nicole United States says:

      My replies keep getting censored because i answer the obvious question.

    • Jeff Poleet Jeff Poleet United States says:


      Your comment was simply brilliant. Hey, doc I walk into things in the dark. How do I decrease that risk?

      This is what people who never suffer pain will understand. They can't understand because they cannot conceive of what we are saying. Just like a 5 year-old child trying to understand nuclear physics, they don't have the ability to conceive or understand that language to process the information they are given.

      Thank you.

  2. Sharon Sharon United States says:

    They could have just asked me--chronic pain from 1992 with no actual relief in sight.

    How much more money is wasted on similar "researches" when it is simply a matter of common sense?  Put that money into research to help ease pain.

  3. Nicole Nicole United States says:

    Leaving a mess for someone, my loved ones, to clean up is what prevents me from suicide. I keep thinking someone will help me, just another month and the doctor will find something, but she hasn't given me a thought. next month comes around and I give it another month and so on, year after year. She says that there isn't anything a doctor can do for my neck, hip, back and leg pain, but if I were a pro athlete I am sure there would have been something that could have been done. it comes down to money, whoever has the money to see the right doctor gets the help, thereby preventing the loss of quality of life and the suicidal thoughts and actions that follow. Just fix my degenerated disks and vertebrae and I would stop thinking about how my life has no meaning. I will only end up a statistic in useless studies like this one. OR fix my spine and I could have a life!

  4. Steve Steve Canada says:

    I know how you guys feel and contemplate suicide quite often. I have severe sciatica, a bunk right knee and as of recent and whats really putting me over the top neck/shoulder pain for the last 5 months. The knee I can live with, the Sciatica and neck/shoulder pain or about to drive me into the ground. Like you guys the only thing stopping me from going through with it is my family and friends. They would be devastated. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to do my job and if I lose my income I'll have no choice but to go on unemployment for a year. At that time I'll try my absolute best to do some physio to help myself and if still not better after a year then it very well could be the end. I wish you all the best of luck. Life certainly doesn't seem fair but I guess it is what it is.

  5. Kris Kris United States says:

    I have had 23 surgeries on my stomach and the pain that I endure everyday from the scar tissue is unbearable. I can't take it sometimes and death seems to be a better option than this. Can anyone help me?

    • d d United States says:

      Hi Kris... I don't have the same condition, but the excruciating chronic pain i can relate to. It seems that the only ones who understand are ones enduring pain and related depression. My post is from July and really nothing has changed. Except now my husband cant take it anymore either and wants a divorce. We have only been married one year. I got hurt on the job one month before we got married, we are  incounseling, but if he leaves me I have no hope at all.

  6. kazia kazia United States says:

    I guess we're all in the same boat. The pain overwhelms what everyone else calls life and we call hell. We do everything the doctors tell us, surgery after surgery. The pain never gets better. They (doctors)say live your life around the pain, like that can be done... Then everyone starts looking at you like a addict but no one cares that the pain paralysis you, that you cry til you can cry anymore. And you beg God for mercy, Please let this pain kill me but it never comes. suicide seems to be the only way but you think about the people you love and you fight for one more day...Doctors don't understand or they don't care...I'm sorry about that...I don't know if talking helps but I'm here, holding on only because I'm too much of a coward to do it myself...

  7. kristy kristy United States says:

    Same pathetic situation here... 27yrs ago a car accident multiple back surgeries since then. At a ppint they say not surgically fixable. Can't walk..only about 7 excruciating feet with a wallergy. Sad sitting standing lying is all unbearable. Cant be intimate with my husband the comment about always holding on,  praying the next appointment is the one.. I CAN'T. hold on anymore. I'm done. Always thought I was a fighter, but I'm finally going down this round. Pain wins!

    • Inka Podrie Inka Podrie United States says:

      This is an example of why people in pain turn to suicide: If platitudes don't help, no one wants to get involved.  Kristy, if you're out there, here's my response:  Warriors go down in battle, and then, as often as not, historically, they've been left there on the field.  An injured warrior is now just a sick person, not very interesting to anyone else, unless they can get paid to help them.  What happens to them depends on how busy their compatriots are with their own concerns.  As a "fighter", I always went to bat when I felt it was needed; and I never backed down or took "No", not as a friend, not on the streets, not in my job as a social worker.  Now that I'm injured, in intractable pain, losing my house, unable to get my violent, mentally ill mother out of it so I can sell (really), tired beyond tired of arguing with docs about how I'm really in worse pain than I look to be and need meds until I can get the next injection or ablation, or surgery.....I see the wisdom in the selfish unwillingness of others to help or get involved, which is not to say I've adopted their stance. I just see it more clearly.  They're instinctually inclined to protect themselves, others be damned.  Well, I'd rather die that live that way, and the time is coming for me to get my wish.  I don't regret helping those I have, even though it's exhausted me to do so.  My friends haven't given their strength to me as I've given to others, and I do rather resent that, but I know that's just my thing. The most I get is advice on what I should do, despite my remarks that I'm too sick or in pain to keep up with any of it.  The friends I've listened to, hugged, and helped by driving to doctors, waiting up at night in the ER, and so on have no problem saying "No" when I ask if my (very good, tiny) dogs can stay with them while I go to court to get a restraining order against my mother. I feel disappointed in my fellow humans - disgusted, really - but I know that's a matter of taste, not morality.  My only concern now is my innocent, loving pets, who do give their all and are very attached to me.  They don't deserve the grief and fear they'll have to go through, after I'm gone.  You and others like us have your fighting spirit, which few others like you can appreciate; and no one and no indignity can take it away.  In the end, I guess, all we have is ourselves, and we had better be comfortable with who we are.  Go in peace, sister.

  8. Jason Logan Jason Logan United States says:

    When you are in serious pain, there is so much desperation and despair.  A lot of you feel hurt and betrayed, but I do not feel that way.  You have to take personal responsibility for your care and not leave it in the hands of others. But when left with no other options I can see how suicide is necessary and I wish more than anything that it was legalized.

    I believe there are a lot of addicts out there, but mostly it is people who don't take their health seriously and their issues just snow ball.

    Medical science has a long way to go still and a lot of people have to find that out the hard way.  Even if your extremely wealthy there is not likely going to be a cure any time soon.  

    What is the most difficult is that if your immediate family doesn't take responsibility for your illness, you are at the mercy of the doctors.  The pain medication helps a lot. I take it two times a week instead of every day like the prescription suggests so I can go the distance with just one drug of choice.

    I wish you all luck on your quest.  You just have to keep telling yourself that fighting your disease will bring you closer to God no matter how steep an uphill battle.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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