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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.590187

Testing whether Suicide Capability has a Dynamic Propensity: The Role of Affect and Arousal on Momentary Fluctuations in Suicide Capability Provisionally accepted The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon. Notify me

 Keyne C. Law1* and Michael D. Anestis2, 3
  • 1Seattle Pacific University, United States
  • 2New Jersey's Gun Violence Research Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, United States
  • 3Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, United States

To prevent suicidal behaviors, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms and processes that enable an individual to act on suicidal thoughts. Suicide capability, which involves an increased pain tolerance and fearlessness of death, is a critical factor that enables an individual to endure the physical pain necessary to make a lethal suicide attempt (Joiner, 2005; Klonsky & May, 2015). Extant research has largely conceptualized suicide capability as developing linearly in response to painful and provocative experiences, but the emerging literature on the temporal dynamics of suicide has been challenging the notion of linearity in suicide risk. Few studies have directly measured and compared changes in suicide capability in response to rumination on different affective states. We sought to experimentally test if rumination in the context of low vs. high arousal emotions will prompt distinct changes in two core components of suicide capability: pain tolerance and fearlessness of death on two undergraduate student samples. In both studies, participants provided measures of subjective emotional state as well as pain threshold, tolerance, and persistence before and after completing experimental manipulations which included both emotion and rumination induction procedures. In the second study, measures of fearlessness about death and physiological arousal (heart rate) were added to the experimental procedures. We found significant decreases in pain threshold, tolerance, and persistence following the experimental manipulations but found no main effects of rumination or suicide risk. These findings suggest that suicide capability can fluctuate but these changes may occur through a different mechanism and/or differ between individuals at varying levels of suicide risk.

Keywords: Suicide, Acquired capability for suicide, Arousal, Emotion Regulation, Affect

Received: 31 Jul 2020; Accepted: 10 Jun 2021.

Copyright: © 2021 Law and Anestis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Keyne C. Law, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, United States,