Suicidal behavior can be difficult to talk about. Starting the conversation, however, is critical to fighting back against this mental disorder. It is important to understand the criteria for suicidal behavior and the risk factors associated. In recent years, the medical community has focused efforts on honing their definition. Suicidal behavior is no longer seen as a symptom of Major Depression or Borderline Personality Disorder, but a separate disorder in its own right.

Defining Suicidal Behavior Disorder

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) published a fifth edition of the “bible of psychiatry,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Health care professionals use the DSM as a guide to diagnosing mental disorders. In the DSM-5, the APA delineated between attempted suicide, suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide), and non-suicidal, self-injurious behavior. Suicidal Behavior was introduced as a disorder for the first time, characterized by attempted suicide within the past two years.

Suicidal Behavior Disorder is characterized by attempted suicide within the past two years, and does not include behaviors such as suicidal ideation and non-suicidal, self-injurious behavior.

Knowing what characterizes a suicidal attempt, suicidal ideation, and non-suicidal, self-injury can be helpful in understanding Suicidal Behavior Disorder.

Suicidal Attempt – A deliberate, self-destructive act with a clear expectation of death that’s non-fatal.

Suicidal Ideation – Thinking about, considering, or making plans for suicide.

Non-Suicidal, Self-Injury – An act of self-harm that is not intended to result in death.

The APA defined Suicidal Behavior Disorder as they did to aid health care professionals in suicide prevention. The best predictor of future suicide is a history of past suicidal attempts. Psychiatrists are guided by DSM-5 to ask clients about past attempts at suicide to diagnose the disorder. Previously, questions regarding suicidal behavior were reserved to the diagnosis of Major Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder, but suicidal attempts occur outside the context of these disorders. In fact, 10% of people who die by suicide in the U.S. do not have another mental disorder at all. Diagnosing Suicidal Behavior Disorder independently of Major Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder gives healthcare professionals a tool to hopefully prevent suicidal behavior that correlates with other risk factors.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for Suicidal Behavior Disorder include:

  • Previous suicidal attempts
  • History of self-harm
  • Family history of suicide
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior
  • Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, or Depression
  • Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Anxiety, Panic Disorder, or PTSD
  • Eating Disorder
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Serving time in prison
  • History of abuse or witnessing abuse
  • Aging
  • Death of a loved one
  • Receiving a diagnosis for a serious medical condition
  • Low job security or job satisfaction or unemployment
  • Relationship problems
  • Social isolation or bullying, especially cyberbullying

If you think your adolescent or teen may be at risk for Suicidal Behavior Disorder, we are here to help. Our article, Tips for Teen Suicide Prevention contains warning signs for suicide prevention and resources for crises. If your teen is concerned for a friend, You Can Save a Friend! Suicide Prevention Tips for Teens has a lot of great advice. You are not alone in the conversation.