Suicide as a biological imperative? possibly triggering

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by Roads, May 10, 2009.

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  1. Roads

    Roads Active Member

    Okay, fair warning, I came up with this idea while VERY high a little while ago. So sorry if what I'm writing sounds really crazy, but I just want to post my feelings and thoughts.

    This isn't a totally new argument, but it's not well known or accepted, and I've been thinking about this a lot. I want to take a stab at changing the perspective by which people view suicide; mostly because people rarely feel that it is justified. I assert that suicide is justified biologically.

    A few important points to consider:

    1. Suicide happens A LOT (1 million victims a year world wide), and an even greater unknown number where the deaths aren't labeled suicides due to social/religious/family honor concerns. We know that depression occurs in large percentages of the population (10-20%). I can only assume that suicidal ideation happens on a similarly massive scale in tandem with depression.

    2. Common things trigger suicidal ideation in humans:
    -Social rejection and romantic rejection; as well as financial and academic failure.
    -Social isolation and the lack of friends, family, romantic relationships and social support.
    -The lack of self-esteem and self worth.
    -Hopelessness about the individual's future.
    -General lack of enjoyment of day-to-day life.

    3. Depression occurs as either a result of similar circumstances mentioned above, or simply clinical depression/bipolar/other mental illness.

    4. Depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide happen to people of all races, nationalities, creeds, religions, socio-economic levels, and to people in all geographic locations. It is a global phenomenon.

    We here on this forum have an intimate understanding of suicide. So, we know that it is something that HAPPENS to people, not something they simply choose to do.

    The hypothesis I would assert now is that suicide is an event that occurs that is "biologically correct" or, is in a way, a "biological goal" or "imperative". There are a number of reasons for this:

    1. Suicide removes "less perfect" humans from the population; I.E.: people with clinical depression and other illnesses (both mental and physical), and people who generally do not "fit" into society/civilization and the sub groups within it for whatever reason. This ends up removing less ideal genes from the gene pool.

    2. Suicide "saves" the particular individual from continuing to experience pain.

    3. Humans naturally begin considering suicide in states of failure, isolation and depression. In other words, the brain initiates chemical processes that stop inhibiting human self destructive behavior and forces suicidal thoughts into the individuals mind.

    4. From my own personal experience: when I feel suicidal, I often feel as though it is the right thing to do, that I was meant to do it, and that it is my only option. Many people with similar experiences would probably agree on those feelings.

    5. Some depressed/suicidal people are born with, or develop whats referred to as "suicide brain". A brain whose architecture is inherently predisposed to depression and suicidal behavior. This fundamental difference in brain architecture can be caused by birth defect, childhood trauma (sexual, physical abuse, etc), the general environment the individual grew up in, or simply genetics. ( )

    I think too many people view suicide as something that cowards do to take the easy way out. But, people who have been depressed/suicidal know that suicide is something that occurs when certain criteria are met. Barring honorable sepuku, suicide bombings/attacks, suicide for religious reasons, and suicide as a means of protest of course.

    What I'm basically trying to say is that, while sad and tragic, suicide victims are essentially contributing to a large, species-wide biological goal of evolving and perfecting the human race.

    Sorry that was so long. lol

    But what do you guys think?
  2. Pad

    Pad Well-Known Member

    Re: Suicide as a biological imperative?

    Interesting. I can see where you're coming from and I can relate to all those common triggers listed and most of the other points. But I believe my brain is trying to stop me from comitting suicide. It feels the right thing for me to do, but it feels like I can't actually go through with it, at least not yet. I think that suicide is a choice, but one that is forced by circumstances whatever they may be. I think the brain tries to survive whatever, as an instinct, but can be overcome by the pain and hurt of certain situations.

    Just my thoughts
  3. Roads

    Roads Active Member

    Re: Suicide as a biological imperative?

    This is a great point Pad. I agree, that while we may think of suicide, or even try it, there is always at least a shred of the human survival instinct stopping most people from completing a suicide. I think one example this can be illustrated in is the fact that many suicide attempts are not genuine attempts to end the individuals life, but instead serve as overt cries for help when other attempts to reach out for help failed.

    We know that people often sabotage their own attempts (or just poorly plan them) by not taking enough of an overdose, not firing the gun at guaranteed fatal area of the body (the abdomen for example), not cutting the right arteries/veins, not jumping from a high enough structure, alerting someone before they attempt suicide, or by simply making sure they are in a place where someone will find them and rescue them/get them medical attention before they die.

    I would argue that while your own personal survival instinct, as well as mine, have so far prevailed over suicidal thoughts; the negative events/circumstances and level of depression we've experienced are simply not yet great enough for our brains to initiate a "completely suicidal/self-destructive mindset".
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2009
  4. Ziggy

    Ziggy Antiquitie's Friend

    Re: Suicide as a biological imperative?

    No other animal species cares about the continuation of its species. This is shown most clearly by an endangered species that commits infanticide. (ie. gorillas). I think that if it's not 'biologically correct' for other species it can't be 'biologically correct' for us.
  5. MeAndYou

    MeAndYou Well-Known Member

    Re: Suicide as a biological imperative?

    This is a very interesting post and i think angles the discussion of suicide in a way that can make many people vulnerable or feel uncomfortable. I think this could be considered "triggering* for some people given the over all conclusion this theory presents.

    This seems to be a case of diagnosing on a large general scale in my opinion. I think its safe to say simply because you have suicidal thoughts, does not mean you're automatically inferior (of course this assuming the theory is correct).

    Some poeple may fit the conclusion of this theory but i also think for many people the thought of suicide is more a control keep them from loosing themselves completely...more a place holder until they can gather themselves back into the every day events of life.

    I also think that if this theory holds some truth its an out-dated "instinct" for a complete lack of a better word. Simply because someone is mentally retarded, or without a limb, or something along those lines, does not mean they should feel the need to be "disposed of" although they may not have fared so well in "cave man times". The same can be said for those who may fit this criteria of suicide if it is indeed true.

    Having said that i think we've come back to the same spot we were before. Lifes a bitch.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2009
  6. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    Stating your case from a purely biological point of view has a major flaw in it, in my opinion. You would have to prove to me that the amoeba, or microscopic muti-celled biological entities were suicidal. As a believer in evolution, this is what I would look at.

    Or even, our closer ancestors, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon beings. This is recent enough to study whether or not there is any proof that the inferior (as you claim) took their own lives.

    Also as a previous poster stated, their is no evidence of other contemporary biolgical entities taking their own lives; gorilla's, lions, etc...even an ostrich takes it's head out of the sand to come up for air. And our closest biological friends (DNA wise) the cimpanzees were studies for 50 years by Jane Goodall without one suicide as far as I know.
  7. Pad

    Pad Well-Known Member

    Ok, so why don't other animals commit suicide? Maybe they don't know that death exists, and that if they are suffering it is just accepted. How would they know death exists? All they have known about is life. Who's to say that if they realised that death existed, they wouldn't prefer it to certain suffering they experience. Does this mean suicide really is a choice?
  8. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    TO PAD: You're right on regarding animals...most have no self-awareness (chimps and dolphins have shown some kind of awareness) but they don't KNOW they exist..they live on instinct. They have no idea of the concept of a 'future'. They can't communicate about the past or future. The OP is claiming that this is a biological issue, when it should be approached as a philosophical, social, moral issue, which only humans can understand.
  9. Aurora Gory Alice

    Aurora Gory Alice Well-Known Member

    Is that completely true though? About Animals not commiting suicide?
    It says here:

    "When driven to extremes animals will terminate their own lives be it by starvation, suffocation, or blunt force trauma. The most common type of animal suicide is that in which an animal (usually a dog) forms a very strong bond with either a human being or another an animal and then loses that significant other. Dogs in such situations sometimes go into depression and reject food and attention until they eventually die".

    Ref -
  10. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    I agree that some animals have shown emotions and can be unhappy. But I don't see any proof that they know they are committing suicide. The excerpt even states that the issue is open to debate. Also, insects act on instinct! and who wrote the article...unless it was a biologist, and backed up by others, I would have serious doubts. Where is the proof that a dog inflicted blunt force trauma upon itself?

    I've seen baby elephants, who've lost their mother, thrash around in a cage. But this may be due to the trauma they experience over the loss of the mother and it's natural instinct to have no clue on how to survive. I don't think the elephant is trying to kill itself...I'd need to see a biological study.

    Also, what about all the dogs and cats in the pound or shelters that have been abused or discarded by previous owners? Don't they show a desire for life? Also, the runt of any litter struggles like hell to get to the milk. It's natural instinct is to survive, not to run off and kill itself! Natural selection is the most widely accepted scientific study regarding life and death, and can be debated, but self determination in the non-human animal kingdom has never been proven to my knowledge.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 11, 2009
  11. MeAndYou

    MeAndYou Well-Known Member

    Trying to find proof of whether or not they know and understand the ramifications of suicide and know and understand they are making this decision is hard to come by but i dont think its been proven they DONT know and understand.

    Its more a question of how conscious of a being these animals are? How cognitive are their brains? And "conscious" is something we know very little about.

    There was a story where a dolphin helped guide its injured dolphin "friend" to a rehabilitation center (operated by humans of course) after it was attacked by a shark. Also elephants mate for life and are incredibly smart. Things like this could mean a brain with a higher level of cognition / conscious and suggest they know/or have the ability to know they are committing suicide.

    For me though i think the proof is found within the act itself. Its one thing to see an elephant stumble on an old land mine and die, or get shot. Its another thing to see the elephant starve itself after its life long mate dies.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2009
  12. Roads

    Roads Active Member

    I found an interesting article here about animal suicide.

    I know for a fact that it is well documented that many animals "lose the will to live" when their mate dies. It's very common for canaries, elephants, etc. will all stop eating and pass away when their mates die.

    From a personal experience, my family had a little toy poodle named Peanut. He was a really cute little guy, but over the last few years he unfortunately became somewhat neglected. My mom hated the dog, for whatever reason, and she would lock him in the laundry room all day and peanut was really only attached to my dad. My dad has to travel a lot because of business; so whenever he was gone the dog would seem to slip into a state of depression, wouldn't eat, wouldn't come out of his little crate, and just basically sat there and slept the whole time.

    Last summer my dad was gone for a full four weeks out of town, the longest he's been gone at once. Peanut didn't leave his crate the whole time and wouldn't eat his food; he passed away the day my mom finally decided he needed to go to the vet.

    Now, I know that this animal was severely depressed, and I believe he probably didn't want to live because of the separation trauma between him and my dad. I can only assume he didn't eat as a means to end his life.
  13. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    ROADS: I understand what you're saying, and I agree that certain animals show some kind of 'feelings'. I don't doubt this. Dog's and cats show signs of happiness and even sorrow, like when you punish a dog. Same with chimps and elephants. But the OP is saying that it is natural for humans, biologically, to commit suicide as a method of weeding out the weak or mentally unstable.

    In some medical cases involving schizophrenia, the voices tell the person to commit suicide, but I don't think it is a scenario of "natural selcetion". It's simply a defect or possibly caused by some kind of childhood trauma. I don't think medical academics know exactly, even still, all the causes of several medical conditions.

    If you want to state that war and disease are part of the "natural selection" process or "survival of the fittest" I don't think I could argue that point. But as to whether suicide is a biological component of the theory, I just don't see the proof.
  14. BioHomocide

    BioHomocide Well-Known Member

    Hmm great read!

    I'm not gonna have kids so why stay alive?
  15. jameslyons

    jameslyons Well-Known Member

    Life is subjective. I have a hard time buying that animals willingly kill themselves, though I do believe that they may become emotionally depressed and lose a sense of appetite that in extreme cases kills them. I just doubt their ability to consciously bring on their own death. Even if their behaviors and symptoms, if in humans, would constitute suicidal behaviorism.

    The mind is happy to condone suicide if things get bad enough. But in all my attempts my body had a visceral negative reaction to it, regardless of what my brain wanted. I think suicide just takes over our frontal lobes, I don't think the body will ever accept death readily.
  16. Random

    Random Well-Known Member

    I kind of have a problem with this. I think depression (And various psychological problems that often accompany it) is what happens to the person and suicide is the choice some people make in an effort to end their suffering. People cannot choose not to be seriously depressed. You either are or you aren't. If you are, you're stuck.

    Suicide, it seems, is generally seen by those who contemplate it as a solution to all their problems or it is simply a final act of desperation in a world of painful impossibility. In other words, the person knows that suicide isn't an ideal solution (Ideally, you could solve all your problems and still be alive). They are simply so sick and tired of trying to make impossible decisions in order to try to solve problems that can't be solved. The human brain does not deal well with insurmountable odds. Which is exactly why when someone overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds, it seems like a miracle and is hailed as a great accomplishment. Because it really is. It rarely happens. It's just a really good turn of luck.

    When we get stuck, we will either find a way to move ahead or time will start working on us and we're really in trouble. That's how people think. This is what generally causes hesitation. People realize how serious and final the decision is so they start second guessing themselves and wondering if their problems are really unsolvable.

    As to your theory that it's a biological imperative? I guess that's a possibility. I've had the thought myself. Whether it's an evolutionary mechanism or not is anyone's guess and I doubt we could count on the official scientific establishment to be honest with us if they found out that it it was indeed true. It could be just a matter of psychological conditioning. After all, when you feel worthless, why do you feel that way? Probably the main reason is because from birth, other people have conditioned you to believe that you should feel worthless if you don't contribute anything. We are taught that we should be productive and the worst thing in the world is to be unproductive. So what happens when we realize that our natural state of being is to be unproductive? We suddenly realize that we're useless in a world that demands productivity.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2009
  17. Random

    Random Well-Known Member

    If you had flippers and you were suicidal, yet squeamish about anything too hardcore, what would you do? (That's a joke, BTW)
  18. Roads

    Roads Active Member

    What I'm saying is that suicide and suicidal behavior is a RESULT of specific biological processes and responses.

    Suicide HAS to be biological, because it enters the minds of billions of people, and takes the lives of millions; EVERYWHERE. That's massive. That's not a psychosocial "choice" phenomenon, that's a biological response to always nearly identical health related situations.
  19. JohnADreams

    JohnADreams Well-Known Member

    I don't know if I'd be so ready to dismiss the idea of choice and free will when it come to suicide. Saying that, aren't you also negating the possibility of psychological determinism?

    Like Shades, I don't see any evidence for biology being the main cause behind suicide. If anything, when a society develops to the point where mental illness is rife, natural selection is all but taken out of the equation.
  20. hammockmonkey

    hammockmonkey Well-Known Member

    This sounds like a good theory while high. This is a critique while drunk, so take it for what it's worth.

    1: 1 million suicides a year (a stat that really is impossible to determine) is less than 1 percent of the worlds population so no it is not that large(1 million divided by 6.7 billion = 0.000149253731).

    2: Human beings are social creatures. This is anecdotally supported by how we all survive. Further proof can be found in any sociological analysis of human-beings, or any anthropological account of humans. Also, psychoanalytically or really any other way you want to look at people. We are social, we cannot deny that social "rejection" either makes us change behaviors or feel, well rejected and useless.

    3: Depression as a mental illness may originate from "social rejection" but also may come from unstable chemical balance or abnormal brain development.

    4: Assumption here, also suicide is not always viewed with the stigma the West has of it.

    Hypothesis "Suicide is an event that occurs that is biologically correct, or is in a way a biological goal, or [biological] imperative."

    1: This hypothesis is based on a number of assumptions, the first of which is the easiest to reject. "Less Perfect human-beings." This begs the question is there a perfect human being? While seemingly a pointless question it actually is the crux of this entire argument. The answer is no. Unless there is a God, or at least "Ultimate truth". As this is not empirically solvable it is an unanswerable question form a scientific point of view. I do not have the brainpower, nor the will power to cite this. I'm sorry, I'm drunk. My point here can be supported by looking at Nietzsche's "Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense". There are others, I'm sure, but I'm lazy. The very concept of "Perfection," while it might be supported by Nietzsche's "Uberwomen", or seemingly so, it is not. Uberwomen are defined by their own times, and quite contradictory to their theoretical framework are products of a worldview and of a ideological framework. That is, no woman (or man) is capable of understanding the world "as it is." This argument has to be supported solely on anecdotal evidence, I'm willing to admit that. I am also quite sure this point of view would be supported by Aristotle, and many other philosophers.

    2: Saving the individual is implied to be a good thing. This is not so. There are many instances where the individual needs to be sacrificed for others. Also, the notion of individuality that is being suggested here is a purely Western concept. The individual is seen as the unit we should evaluate people at, instead of family units, or other social constructs.

    3: Humans natural being to consider suicide after failure, isolation and depression. Drawing from my statistics this is incorrect.

    4: This cannot be compared. Well, I guess anecdotally (which is what i've really done so far so why stop now) it can. I know it's wrong for me to feel suicidal, so that's my comparison? I guess I"m done here.

    5: This just points out that traumatic events can make people suicidal and that some people are born (randomly) with this type of brain. Not really an argument. This relies on the assumption of a perfect human-being.

    I did not read any replies sorry if this is a double.
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