A New Way To Detect Suicidal Tendencies


Hyporeactivity is a term used to describe a person who has diminished responsiveness to his or her surroundings.

According to some German-Swiss researchers, many depressed individuals demonstrate hyporeactivity because they have a biological inability to care about their surroundings, so their reaction to it is muted.

Hyporeactivity can be easily detected by monitoring changes in a person's blood circulation, blood pressure, and the sweat gland activity in his or her fingers. Using these measures, scientists found a significant correlation between hyporeactivity and suicide in depressed individuals.

“The results are so strong that I’m astonished,” said researcher Lars-Hakan Thorell. “We can determine very accurately whether a person risks committing suicide, which can revolutionize suicide prevention.”

Study Results

The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, involved 783 inpatients diagnosed with depression. They were each tested for hyporeactivity, or the diminished ability to respond to a variety of stimuli.

  1. When the results were tallied, it showed that 97 percent of depressed people who eventually committed suicide demonstrated hyporeactivity.
  2. Of the depressed patients who were not hyporeactive, only 2 percent later committed suicide.
  3. Hyporeactivity was most evident in people having a bipolar diagnosis (80.2 percent of bipolar patients compared to 67.3 percent of those diagnosed as depressed).
  4. Individuals with recurring depression are at risk for developing hyporeactivity during their lifetime.

There was no correlation found between hyporeactivity and the severity of depression. So, not everyone who is hyporeactive is suicidal – but almost every depressed suicidal individual is hyporeactive.

Measuring Hyporeactivity

Researchers use a variety of stimuli to determine a person’s response to his or her surroundings. For instance, they might have a patient listen to a pattern of tones while monitoring the body’s reactions (blood pressure, sweat) using sensors placed on the patient's fingers.

When people hear a tone pattern for the first time, nearly everyone reacts to it automatically. This is called a general orientation reaction. However, when the tones are played again, those who are hyporeactive will have a diminished response. Scientists suggest this is caused by specific nerve cells within the individual’s hippocampus that have been damaged by long-term elevated stress and depression.

Whether this research translates into a popular tool for suicide prevention remains to be seen. Still, it is amazing how the body so accurately registers our state of mind via our sweat glands and circulatory system.

Source: Science Daily


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