Prevalence and correlates of suicidal thoughts in patients with neuropsychiatric lupus

Lupus. 2016 Feb;25(2):185-92. doi: 10.1177/0961203315603136. Epub 2015 Sep 9.


Background: Suicidal ideation is observed in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). No study on this notable phenomenon in neuropsychiatric SLE (NPSLE) is available so far.

Methods: Participants were 53 consecutive outpatients with NPSLE (48 women; mean age 43.8 years) diagnosed according to the American College of Rheumatology nomenclature for SLE neuropsychiatric syndromes. A Neuropsychiatric Questionnaire (NP-Q) concerning 45 neurological, cognitive and psychiatric symptoms was used to assess the prevalence of self-perceived neuropsychiatric symptoms. The Modified Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS-M) was used to assess the level of anxiety, depression and irritability. Formal neuropsychological examination was performed. Clinical data were collected by means of medical charts review and structured interview.

Results: Suicidal thoughts were present in 25% of patients with NPSLE, irrespective of sex, age, education, work status, disease duration and steroid treatment. Suicidal ideation was connected with elevated levels of depression, anxiety and irritability. In patients with suicidal ideation the prevalence of cognitive, psychiatric and neurological self-perceived problems was significantly higher.

Conclusions: Suicidal thoughts are common in patients with NPSLE. Neuropsychiatric manifestation per se, depression, anxiety and patients' subjective complaints can be risk factors for suicidal ideation. Screening for suicidal thoughts is vital in routine care of SLE patients.

Keywords: Systemic lupus erythematosus; anxiety; cognitive complaints; depression; neurological symptoms; neuropsychiatric; psychiatric symptoms; self-perceived symptoms; suicidal thoughts.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Mood
  • Lupus Vasculitis, Central Nervous System / diagnosis
  • Lupus Vasculitis, Central Nervous System / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prevalence*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires