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A Journal on Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychopharmacology

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Social Psychiatry
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Minerva Psichiatrica 2009 June;50(2):171-82

language: English

Anxiety disorders and suicidal behavior

Jagdeo A. 1, Sareen J. 1,2, Bolton J. M. 1

1 Department of Psychiatry University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
2 Department of Community Health Sciences University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada


Controversy regarding the role of anxiety disorders in the pathogenesis of suicidal behavior has persisted in literature for decades. Small study sizes and selected patient populations had previously prevented meaningful extrapolation of these findings to the general population. However, data from a number of large general population mental health surveys have become available in recent years and shown that certain anxiety disorders are independently associated with increased risk for suicide attempts. These associations persisted even when differences owing to sociodemographics and comorbid mental disorders had been controlled. This review has collated recent findings from published literature on the relationship between anxiety disorders and suicidal behavior. Most data support an independent link between post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide attempts. Comorbidity, young age, and female gender confer additional risk. Given that anxiety disorders have an early onset in life, are highly prevalent, and significantly elevate the risk of suicidal behavior – especially when comorbid with mood disorders – vigilance is required in the assessment and management of young people at risk for suicide, even when the primary complaint may not be anxiety. Determination of risk factor predictive values, the role of anxiety disorders in completed suicide, and exploration of protective factors remain the focus of future studies.

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