Suicide as escape from self

Psychol Rev. 1990 Jan;97(1):90-113. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.97.1.90.


Suicide is analyzed in terms of motivations to escape from aversive self-awareness. The causal chain begins with events that fall severely short of standards and expectations. These failures are attributed internally, which makes self-awareness painful. Awareness of the self's inadequacies generates negative affect, and the individual therefore desires to escape from self-awareness and the associated affect. The person tries to achieve a state of cognitive deconstruction (constricted temporal focus, concrete thinking, immediate or proximal goals, cognitive rigidity, and rejection of meaning), which helps prevent meaningful self-awareness and emotion. The deconstructed state brings irrationality and disinhibition, making drastic measures seem acceptable. Suicide can be seen as an ultimate step in the effort to escape from self and world.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Escape Reaction*
  • Humans
  • Self Concept*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*