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Review
. 2016 Apr;123(3):235-54.
doi: 10.1037/rev0000020. Epub 2015 Nov 2.

Suicide as a Derangement of the Self-Sacrificial Aspect of Eusociality

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Review

Suicide as a Derangement of the Self-Sacrificial Aspect of Eusociality

Thomas E Joiner et al. Psychol Rev. .

Abstract

Building upon the idea that humans may be a eusocial species (i.e., rely on multigenerational and cooperative care of young, utilize division of labor for successful survival), we conjecture that suicide among humans represents a derangement of the self-sacrificial aspect of eusociality. In this article, we outline the characteristics of eusociality, particularly the self-sacrificial behavior seen among other eusocial species (e.g., insects, shrimp, mole rats). We then discuss parallels between eusocial self-sacrificial behavior in nonhumans and suicide in humans, particularly with regard to overarousal states, withdrawal phenomena, and perceptions of burdensomeness. In so doing, we make the argument that death by suicide among humans is an exemplar of psychopathology and is due to a derangement of the self-sacrificial behavioral suite found among eusocial species. Implications and future directions for research are also presented.

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