Reconsidering the Link Between Impulsivity and Suicidal Behavior

Michael D. Anestis, Kelly A. Soberay, Peter M. Gutierrez, Theresa D. Hernández, Thomas E. Joiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


It is widely accepted that suicidal behavior often occurs with little planning. We propose, however, that suicidal behavior is rarely if ever impulsive—that it is too frightening and physically distressing to engage in without forethought—and that suicidal behavior in impulsive individuals is accounted for by painful and fearsome behaviors capable of enhancing their capacity for suicide. We conducted a meta-analysis of the association between trait impulsivity and suicidal behavior and a critical review of research considering the impulsiveness of specific suicide attempts. Meta-analytic results suggest the relationship between trait impulsivity and suicidal behavior is small. Furthermore, studies examining a mediating role of painful and provocative behaviors have uniformly supported our model. Results from our review suggest that researchers have been unable to adequately measure impulsivity of attempts and that measures sensitive to episodic planning must be developed to further our understanding of this phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-386
Number of pages21
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 8 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


  • acquired capability
  • impulsivity
  • suicide


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