Impulsivity has been variously defined as behaviour without adequate thought, the tendency to act with less forethought than do most individuals of equal ability and knowledge, or a predisposition toward rapid, unplanned reactions to internal or external stimuli without regard to the negative consequences of these reactions.
Impulsivity is implicated in a number of psychiatric disorders including Mania, Personality Disorders, and Substance Use Disorders. Yet, there is significant disagreement among researchers and clinicians regarding the exact definition of impulsivity and how it should be measured.
The Houston study interviewed 153 survivors of nearly-lethal suicide attempts, ages 13-34. Survivors of nearly-lethal attempts were thought to be more like suicide completers due to the medical severity of their injuries or the lethality of the methods used. They were asked: “How much time passed between the time you decided to complete suicide and when you actually attempted suicide?”
One in four deliberated for less than 5 minutes!
Nine out of ten deliberated less than a day.
1 in 4 said 5-19 minutes
1 in 4 said 20 minutes to 1 hour
1 in 6 said 2-8 hours
1 in 8 said 1 or more days
While this personality trait brings to question the predictability of some suicides, it most certainly makes a strong case for removal of means.
It appears that impulsivity does play an important but small role in suicidal behaviour. Research has demonstrated that impulsive individuals are more likely to engage in painful and provocative experiences and that these experiences appear to make them less fearful about death. Given their greater acquired capability for suicide, if these individuals go on to experience perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness, they will be at high risk for death by suicide.