Death: the end of life and of everything we know , the moment when we stop being who and how we are. Most people don’t want to die, making the idea of death a bit aversive. However, many see it as a liberation or an escape from suffering, or as a means to achieve certain ends. Some of these people may decide to end their own life for different reasons.
But not all suicides occur in the same way or have the same characteristics or purpose. That is why we can establish the existence of different types of suicide, which can be classified according to different criteria .
The idea of suicide
Suicide is understood to be any act or omission of this performed voluntarily with the purpose of ceasing to exist, that is, taking one’s own life . Generally, the person who decides to commit suicide tends to be going through a period of profound vital suffering in different important aspects of their life, without being able to face it and being in a state of desperation in which the only way out they can see is death.
The experience of a deep trauma, the diagnosis of an incurable disease, the harassment of other people or the despair and feeling of total lack of control over one’s life are some of the many aspects that can precipitate in some people the attempt to kill themselves. Although death is sought through these types of acts, the majority of people who carry them out do not seek death itself but rather the liberation and cessation of the suffering that something causes them .
At the organic level, suicidal behavior is usually associated with a low level of serotonin in the nervous system . There are important risk factors such as the presence of psychopathology (bipolar disorder, followed by addictions, depression, schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder are some of the most linked to suicide attempts), sex (although ideation is more frequent in women, men tend to carry out the suicidal act in a higher proportion of cases) and age, impulsiveness and desperation, the presence or knowledge of other suicides in the immediate environment or the existence of persistent and unmanageable stressors due to the lack of sufficient resources.
In addition, there are different types of suicide, which can be classified according to various criteria. Here are some of the main ones.
Types of Suicide by Motivation
One of the main aspects to take into account when evaluating a suicidal act is the reason that has driven the person to cause his or her own death. In this aspect we can find a great number of types of suicide, being some of the main ones the following.
1. Suicide call for attention or cry for help
Some people resort to suicide attempts as a mechanism to draw attention to a specific fact or to ask for help when faced with facts they are not able to control . It may have a manipulative purpose and the person usually does not want the death itself unless the problem situation does not change.
2. For the purpose of death
The goal of this type of suicide is to achieve death itself. It is usually carefully and meticulously planned .
3. As an escape
Most suicides have as their real objective the cessation of suffering and not death itself. Death is seen as the only alternative to the suffering caused by a specific element of reality (for example, harassment or debt), which is why the subject decides to dispose of his or her own life. Generally it happens in an impulsive way and without great previous planning .
This type of suicide is often aimed at a specific goal other than death or flight. It tends not to seek one’s own death but to fake or pretend such a search in order to get some kind of benefit. Examples of this are the above-mentioned cry for help or the cry for revenge, although she may also pursue financial benefits such as the fact that others collect life insurance.
5. For revenge
Suicide by revenge or paranoid type is a type of suicide which is carried out with the purpose of causing harm to other people, in order to make someone feel guilty and/or suffer.
6. Of balance
It is considered as such the suicide carried out by people who, in the absence of psychopathology and after a long period of time trying to face a conflictive and painful situation, decide after making a balance that to continue living does not suppose any kind of gain neither for themselves nor for the environment. This is usually observed in cases of the elderly and people with serious limitations.
Types of suicide by mode or method
People who choose to kill themselves resort to different means depending on the concrete intent of their action, their need to be in control of the situation, the level of suffering they want to endure or simply the availability of concrete means. If we classify suicides and suicide attempts by the method used to do so, we can find different types.
These are forms of suicide that in principle do not cause obvious trauma and that tend to cause numbness and little pain . One of the main forms of suicide with soft methods is the ingestion of massive amounts of drugs, such as barbiturates. The person often plays a more passive role in his or her own death, waiting for the effects of their action.
Likewise they imply a greater probability of repentance and salvation , and in many cases the effects can be reversed before they cause death.
Within this classification are incorporated methods that involve greater brutality , such as suicide through the use of weapons (whether white or firearms), electrocution, throwing oneself into a vacuum or hanging. They tend to have a higher probability of death than soft weapons and involve some brutality.
Compared to soft forms of suicide, they are much more likely to cause some kind of suffering. They are also often methods that involve direct action by the individual in causing his or her own death.
These types of suicides often cause a high level of suffering before death, with a certain amount of cruelty to oneself. They are usually carried out in situations of psychopathology , especially psychotic. Examples of this would be the ingestion of corrosive or cutting substances, drowning oneself or self-cannibalistic practices.
These are deaths that are caused by the person himself in such a way that can be confused with natural deaths or with homicides. They usually pursue a specific intention, such as collecting life insurance from relatives or blaming someone for one’s own death.
According to the level of regulation and social integration
One of the classifications made after several studies is the one carried out by Durkheim, who considered suicide an act caused mainly by social elements . In this sense, there are four possible classifications, related to the level of integration of the individual into society or the regulation of society over the life of persons.
11. Selfish suicide
Suicide is understood as the type of suicide that takes place when the individual’s social ties are weak and the individual does not feel integrated into society. He/she is not able to feel satisfied due to the lack of fulfilment as a social being . He feels overwhelmed, incapable and alone.
It is the self-inflicted death that is produced by an excess of group integration, seeing one’s own death as a sacrifice made for the benefit of the group. The group is valued more than the individual himself .
Anomalous suicide is suicide carried out by those who have insufficient social regulation. The changing and unstable society makes them have no references, modifying the values of the individual and may cause a loss of identity .
Unlike the previous one, fatalistic suicide is seen as that carried out by individuals subjected to excessive social control and regulation, feeling oppressed and impotent that may lead to seeking death as an escape from such a situation.
According to pre-planning presence
Autolysis can also be classified according to whether or not it has been previously planned.
15. Accidental suicide
It’s the kind of suicide that happens by accident. The subject didn’t really want to die, but his performance creates a situation that ends his life.
16. Reflective, intentional or premeditated
Premeditated suicide is one in which the person who commits it has planned in advance both the manner and the time and place of his or her death. In some cases in which the motive is the experience of traumatic events or in which the subject manifested great anxiety, a sudden state of calm and serenity can be observed prior to the act, as a result of having made the decision.
17. Impulsive suicide
Impulsive suicide is one that is carried out without prior premeditation. The subject may have thought about taking his own life before, but does not carry out this action until a moment when he feels highly activated and desperate . It may occur in high anxiety situations, during a psychotic break or during a manic episode.
Depending on the result
Attempting to take one’s own life may end up generating different results, depending on whether the attempt is successful or not.
18. Non-suicidal self-harm
In this case we are not dealing with a real suicide attempt. The subject hurts himself for different reasons but without this action posing a real risk to his life or without the self-harm being intended. Sometimes it can even lead to death.
A suicide attempt or attempt is considered to be any act carried out voluntarily with the intention of achieving one’s own death without such action succeeding in its objective.
20. Completed suicide
We call consummated suicide the one in which the person has acted with the purpose of killing himself and has achieved his goal .
21. Thwarted suicide
This is the type of suicide attempt that has been carried out with the purpose of achieving death, using methods that usually result in the death of the individual. However, the intervention of circumstantial and unpredictable elements, such as the appearance of other people, the rapid action of the medical services, bad planning or an inaccurate use of the means chosen to cause death have prevented it from ending in death .
Depending on the involvement of others
Sometimes suicide involves, either voluntarily or involuntarily, more than one person. In this sense we can find the following types of suicide.
22. Mass or collective suicide
This is a type of suicide in which more than one person or an entire group chooses and agrees to propitiate their own death voluntarily. The reasons for this may be various, such as the escape of a terrifying factor or the conviction that such an act may bring them some kind of benefit. This type of act usually occurs in the context of war situations or in sects .
Extended suicide is based on the idea that an individual decides to take his own life but, in addition, considers the death of others generally linked to him necessary or even compassionate. These other people have not manifested the intention of wanting to die .
The individual first kills the others, who are usually close relatives such as children, partners or family, and then takes his own life. This type of situation usually occurs in family settings where the person who wants to commit suicide believes that those he leaves behind will suffer greatly or will not be able to survive without him.
24. Assisted suicide or euthanasia
Euthanasia or assisted suicide implies the end of a person’s life through the participation of another or others, participation authorised and demanded by the subject himself or by his close environment in the case of irreversible injuries that do not allow the individual to make a decision.
25. Induced suicide
It is an act of self-injury with the purpose of death that has been provoked or facilitated due to the coercion or suggestion that other people have provoked in the individual who commits suicide. The subject may be threatened or forced to kill himself, or it may be actively facilitated that he has a death wish.
26. False suicide
In this case we are not dealing with a real case of suicide. It is usually a homicide or murder that has been carried out in such a way that it appears that the subject in question has taken his own life .
- Capponi, R. (2000). Psychopathology and Psychiatric Semiology. Edt. University: Santiago.
- Durkheim, E. (2005). Suicide: A study in Sociology (2nd ed). Taylor and Francis Hoboken.