An act of catharsis or a cry for help? Decreased anxiety as a postcedent of a non-fatal suicide attempt

Hodkinson, Steve; Jandl, Martin; Kaschka, Wolfgang P. (24 November 2016). An act of catharsis or a cry for help? Decreased anxiety as a postcedent of a non-fatal suicide attempt (Unpublished). In: DGPPN Kongress 2016. Berlin. 23.-26.11.2016.

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More than 40 years ago, an American physician called R. Gregory Austin suggested that suicide was an act of catharsis. He coined the terms attempters (mostly women appealing for a change in their lives) and committers (mostly men driven by self-hatred) to describe two distinct populations of suicidal patients. Austin was convinced that only the latter group really sought catharsis.
We compared reported mean anxiety levels in male and female inpatients (N = 629) presenting with either no suicidal behavior, death wish, suicidal ideation or who had recently made a non-fatal suicide attempt.
We found that female patients with suicidal ideation had much higher levels of anxiety compared to their non-suicidal counterparts. However, the anxiety levels of female patients who had recently made a non-fatal suicide attempt were not significantly different to those of non-suicidal women. No similar trends were found in male patients.
Catharsis (Greek: κάθαρσις) means to purge or cleanse the emotions (of fear, pity). Our results suggest that, in contrast to Austin’s original observation, both women and men undertake acts of catharsis: it is simply that the focus of their cathartic act differs. For men, anxiety appears to play no significant role or has no consequence in their suicidal behavior. For women, their catharsis appears to be the purging or normalizing of anxiety.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Translational Research Center

UniBE Contributor:

Jandl, Martin


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Martin Jandl

Date Deposited:

27 Feb 2017 11:20

Last Modified:

27 Feb 2017 11:20




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