We know that those of us who have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma are at substantially increased risk of suicide. One of the main theories of why people commit suicide is the Escape Theory of Suicide which postulates that suicide is a culmination of a series of stages. The theory is of particular relevance to those who have suffered early life trauma as such individuals, due to their childhood adverse experiences, are more likely to be susceptible to each of the stages elucidated by the theory.

THE ESCAPE THEORY OF SUICIDE:

The escape theory of suicide was developed by Baumeister (1990) and incorporates six stages as stated above. These six stages are as follows:

STAGE ONE: FALLING SHORT OF STANDARDS

A person fails to meet the unrealistically high and exacting standards and expectations s/he has of him/herself or experiences setbacks in life.

STAGE TWO: INTERNALIZATION OF SELF_BLAME

The person is deeply pervaded by deep and unadulterated feelings of self-blame for his/her perceived failures and suffers a collapse of self-esteem.

STAGE THREE: AVERSIVE SENSE OF SELF

The person’s profoundly negative self-view becomes deeply and permanently imbued into their very sense of selfhood. This feeling contrasts sharply with a positive view of others giving rise to feelings of alienation and of having ‘unique’ failings).

STAGE FOUR: NEGATIVE AFFECT

The above stages lead to negative affects such as anxiety, depression, and anger.

STAGE FIVE: COGNITIVE CONSTRICTION

The individual develops ‘tunnel vision, focusing on everyday needs to avoid ‘meaningful, forward thinking’ about the future and life’s ‘bigger picture’

STAGE SIX: RECKLESS BEHAVIOR, IRRATIONAL THOUGHT AND ABSENCE OF EMOTION:

Risky behaviors may include self-harm, alcohol or drug abuse, gambling, etc. The absence of emotions means the fear most people have of death can fade away so that ‘successful’ suicide (the ultimate escape) becomes more likely.

The Above Six Stages And How Childhood Trauma Makes Us More Susceptible to Them.

  1. Falling short of standards.

 

Those who suffer childhood trauma are more likely to develop perfectionism, a view of themselves as being ‘intrinsically bad‘, and to have low self-esteem.

2 Self-Blame.

Those who suffer childhood trauma are more likely to suffer feelings of self-blame and associated shame.

3 Aversive Sense Of Self.

Childhood trauma can lead us to develop feelings of self-hatred and intense self-criticism.

4 Negative Affect.

Childhood trauma puts us at increased risk of developing the negative emotions of anxiety, depression, and anger.

5 Cognitive Constriction.

Childhood trauma can lead to a sense of having a foreshortened future which can make planning for the future seem meaningless.

6 Reckless Behavior, Irrational Thought, And Absence Of emotion.

Childhood trauma increases the likelihood we will behave recklessly, think irrationally, and shut down our emotions.

Finally, we should note that those who have experienced severe and protracted childhood trauma are at a considerably increased risk of suicide.particularly if, as a result of their childhood adverse experiences, they have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) or similar conditions.

RESOURCES:

Suicide – SupportLine UK

Help For Suicidal Thoughts – NHS UK

United States National Suicide And Crisis Hotline

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).