Do you feel like a slave to technology? Is your life driven by the constant buzz of incoming texts and emails? Do you sometimes wonder if you might be addicted to technology? Perhaps your phone, your laptop, your smartwatch, or all those notifications? If so, the term “dopamine detox” may ring a bell. It may even be something you have previously tried in order regain control over your life. 

It has been trending, with many people around the world hopping on the bandwagon. The international media has been all over it too. Despite its popularity, however, the concept of a dopamine fast has been largely misunderstood by the masses.

This article explains why a dopamine detox, when understood literally, does not work. It is not just illogical, but scientifically inaccurate. It then introduces the original intention behind the concept of a dopamine fast, as its creator intended. This is based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Lastly, the article discusses some ways in which you may lead a more meaningful and engaged life.

What is a Dopamine Detox?

Dopamine detox, understood literally, does not work. But taking intentional breaks from behaviours that may otherwise be compulsive can be potentially beneficial in the long run.

An Introduction to Dopamine

What is a dopamine detox? To address this, let’s begin by introducing what dopamine is. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is made in your brain, and neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in your body. Simply put, they transport messages across spaces (ie synapses), from a nerve cell to another nerve, muscle, or cell. Dopamine plays a role in various crucial bodily functions. Examples include cognition, memory, focus and attention, movement, behaviour, mood, thinking and planning, and reward and motivation. Dopamine is also a vasodilator, meaning that it helps blood vessels expand and constrict. On top of that, dopamine is associated with your body’s sodium and insulin levels, and lymphocyte activity. 

Links have been found between too high or too low levels of dopamine and both mental health and physical health conditions. Conditions associated with lower than usual levels of dopamine include depression, Parkinson’s Disease, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and restless leg syndrome. With low levels of dopamine, one might feel moody, tired, and unmotivated. Conditions tied to higher than usual levels of dopamine include obesity, mania, and addiction. Someone with high levels of dopamine might feel energised and euphoric. However, the downsides might be difficulty sleeping and poor impulse control. A person with a good level of dopamine might feel motivated, focused, and happy.

Dopamine is often associated with feelings of pleasure and wellbeing. You’ve probably heard that dopamine is a “happy hormone”. But what does that really mean? How does it work? Let’s dive a little deeper into this.

It’s all about rewards. This much is true. But this is also where misconceptions start.

The Role of Dopamine

Dopamine’s role is NOT to make you feel pleasure, as commonly believed. The ones truly responsible for you feeling pleasure are the brain’s opioids. The opioids in your brain work to increase pleasure and block pain. What dopamine actually does, is flag to you that the activity that you’re about to participate in, is going to make you feel pleasure. It helps you notice and remember such an activity. Why? So that you may rinse and repeat. This is how dopamine helps with rewards and learning. In other words, dopamine is about helping your brain to recognise that rewards are pleasurable. A key point to note, then, is that a lack of dopamine does not equate to an experience being less pleasurable.

It is clear that dopamine has a key role in seeking pleasure. It is thus no surprise that experts have contemplated dopamine’s role in explaining addiction. Specifically, some experts have suggested that dopamine conditions one’s brain to seek pleasurable experiences and avoid unpleasant ones.

Original Intent for Dopamine Detox

Unfortunately, people have taken the words “dopamine detox” literally. They then try to “fast” from activities associated with pleasure or dopamine. It was assumed that these were the “dopamine detox rules”. This was not what the creator of the term, Dr Cameron Sepah, had intended at all. The original intention was based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (commonly known as CBT), an evidence-based approach. 

The idea was NOT to fast from dopamine itself, but to practise fasting from addictive behaviours that are reinforced by dopamine. 

Specifically, Dr Sepah listed six compulsive behaviours as follows: 

  • emotional eating;
  • excessive internet use and gaming;
  • gambling and shopping;
  • pornography and masturbation;
  • thrill and novelty seeking; and 
  • the use of recreational drugs.

On top of these, dopamine fasting may be used to address any other behaviour that might be adversely impacting one’s life.

A Dopamine Fast

We can do a dopamine fast by taking breaks from such compulsive behaviours. This is where the term “fast” comes from. These breaks can be anywhere from one hour a day to one week a year. During a dopamine fast, we can partake in simpler and more natural activities. This includes allowing ourselves to experience boredom, for instance. Breaks should also be planned in a way that fits in with our lifestyle and causes minimal disruption.

It’s important for us to clarify what dopamine fasting is not. Again, it is NOT about fasting from dopamine. The point is to fast from addictive or compulsive behaviours. This is a crucial distinction. Dopamine fasting is not about avoiding all sources of stimulation or pleasure. Instead, the target should be behaviours that you think are problematic for you. What one individual considers to be a problematic behaviour in their life might not be an issue at all for another person. Dopamine fasting is not about removing social interaction or exercise. Quite the opposite, actually. You are encouraged to partake in activities that are aligned with your personal values and that are good for your health. Dopamine fasting is not a new type of meditation or sabbatical. No meditation is involved. You also do not need to stop working.

Take time to explore and find out what truly engages you. Keeping up may trends may not always work.

Does Dopamine Detox Actually Work?

The short answer is – like most things, it depends. When understood literally, no. With the right understanding of what a dopamine fast actually is, yes.

Fasting from dopamine itself is not just scientifically inaccurate; it is impossible. Why? We have already noted that a lack of dopamine does not equate to an experience being less pleasurable. Also, when you avoid a pleasurable activity, your dopamine level does not drop. Given this, a dopamine detox or fast does not actually make sense, from a logical standpoint.

The original intention behind a dopamine fast, however, as intended by Dr Sepah, is feasible, and potentially beneficial when done right. The idea is to take intentional breaks from behaviours that might otherwise become compulsive, and to take them in a manner that is least disruptive to one’s lifestyle. The targeted outcome? Behavioural flexibility and hence better control over our lives. 

What You Can Do

Keep in mind that what is trendy is not necessarily true. Just because an idea has gained traction does not mean that everyone has understood it right. In fact, studies have shown that people tend to prefer scientific explanations – such as neuroscience – even if those explanations are logically irrelevant. This is known as the seductive allure effect. One study showed that this holds true across various scientific disciplines, whenever the explanations involved reductive information. Reductive information is reference to smaller components or fundamental processes.

Therefore, instead of focusing on the latest trends, one may want to explore and find out what works for you specifically. This may very well be the original dopamine fast (based on CBT) as intended by Dr Sepah. Or it may be something else that works for you. 

Think about your own life circumstances. What is your current situation? What do you need? Be creative. Opinions of those close to you may be helpful too. How might you be able to engage in life more meaningfully? What are some other ways to achieve the same outcomes? Find out what works for you specifically, given your situation and needs.

professional therapist can help you to explore these questions and more. A common misconception is that a person needs to have “major enough” problems before entering therapy. That is not true at all. People go to therapy for all sorts of reasons, including self-improvement. As long as it is something that matters to you, you can talk it through with a professional therapist. People often report greater self-awareness and better coping after a few sessions of professional therapy.

Conclusion: Dopamine Detox: Does It Work?

A dopamine detox, as many misunderstand it to be, is scientifically and logically inaccurate. It was never about reducing dopamine levels. This is because when we engage less in pleasurable activities, our dopamine levels do not decrease. Hence, it is not actually possible to “fast” from dopamine. What works, however, is fasting from compulsive behaviours that are problematic for us individually. Dr Sepah’s non-exhaustive list of six compulsive behaviours includes emotional eating, excessive internet use and gaming, gambling and shopping, pornography and masturbation, thrill and novelty seeking, and the use of recreational drugs.

A fast can last anywhere from one hour a day to one week per year, depending on individual needs. Fasting should be done in a way that is compatible with one’s lifestyle. When done correctly, the intended outcome of a dopamine fast is greater behavioural flexibility. This would allow a person to regain more control over their life. Unfortunately, misunderstandings of the terms “dopamine detox” and “dopamine detox benefits” run wild. Keep in mind that as alluring as trending topics may seem, always verify their sources. Do what works for you. All the best!

When a dopamine detox is done right, the outcome is behavioural flexibility and greater control over your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dopamine Detox: How does it work?

The original intention behind a dopamine fast, as intended by Dr Sepah, is to take intentional breaks and allow ourselves to address compulsive behaviours that potentially have a negative consequence in our lives. Dr Sepah lists six compulsive behaviours, although the concept may be applied to any behaviour with a potentially adverse consequence to oneself. The six compulsive behaviours are: emotional eating, excessive internet use and gaming, gambling and shopping, pornography and masturbation, thrill and novelty seeking, and the use of recreational drugs. The concept was based on CBT, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The targeted outcome? Better control over our lives.

How long does it take to detox from dopamine?

A dopamine detox, taken literally, is logically and scientifically not possible. This is because although our dopamine levels increase when we engage in pleasurable activities, our dopamine levels do not drop when we take a break from activities we associate with pleasure. Therefore, it is just not possible to “fast” from dopamine.

What can I do during dopamine detox?

While there are no strict rules to adhere to, here are some suggestions you may wish to consider.

Put away anything that makes the fast harder for you. For example, if the behaviour you are trying to fast from is automatically responding to notifications on your phone, put your phone somewhere you won’t be able to access easily.

During a dopamine fast, choose to engage in an activity that makes the compulsive behaviour difficult. For instance, if your compulsive behaviour is emotional eating, try swimming laps in a pool. Imagine how challenging it would be to eat food while underwater.

Find ways to make yourself accountable. What would help minimise the chance of you backing out midway? You may also seek help from those around you. In what ways could they support you?

Alternatively, allow yourself to experience the urge to engage in the compulsive behaviour, without giving in. For example, allow the thought of checking your phone for notifications to cross your mind, but don’t actually check your phone. Let the thought float by without judging it. Pay attention to what other thoughts come up.

It is easier to start small. For instance, try one hour a day. If that is manageable for you, you can increase the duration as you deem fit. With enough practice, you’ll be well on your way to behavioural flexibility!

What happens after dopamine detox?

Many people have misunderstood the idea behind a dopamine detox and taken the term literally. People have ended up avoiding activities they enjoy, thinking (mistakenly) that this would reduce their dopamine levels. This might even include avoiding hobbies and not spending time with loved ones. This is far from the original intention behind a dopamine detox, as intended by its creator. When done right, the outcome is behavioural flexibility and for you to have more control over your life.

Why is dopamine detox so hard?

A dopamine detox, taken literally, is difficult because it is simply not possible. As mentioned above, although our dopamine levels increase when we engage in pleasurable activities, our dopamine levels do not drop when we take a break from activities we associate with pleasure. Therefore, we can’t actually “detox” from dopamine.

What happens if you have too much dopamine?

Conditions associated with higher than usual levels of dopamine include obesity, mania, and addiction. Someone with high levels of dopamine might feel energised and euphoric. However, the downsides might be difficulty sleeping and poor impulse control. While some studies have shown that schizophrenia is associated with higher levels of dopamine, other studies have shown an association between schizophrenia and lower levels of dopamine.

Can you get addicted to dopamine?

You can’t get addicted to dopamine per se. It is a naturally-occurring neurotransmitter in your brain. That said, it is possible for you to be addicted to activities that are associated with higher levels of dopamine.

How long does it take the brain to recover from addiction to dopamine?

The concept of being addicted to dopamine is scientifically inaccurate, as dopamine is created in your brain naturally.

What are some dopamine detox side effects?

Misunderstanding the science behind a dopamine fast has led to adverse outcomes for many, possibly without them even realising it. For example, this occurs when people mistakenly think that part of a dopamine detox is avoiding interacting with other people.

How can I do a dopamine detox for studying?

When considering a dopamine detox for studying, what do you hope to achieve? Improved focus and concentration? Motivation? Better memory and recall? Creativity? There are many ways to get to the same outcomes. Consider leading a more balanced lifestyle. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Engage in mindful practices. Or speak to a professional therapist about what might be holding you back.

Is dopamine fasting a way to fix your brain or just a fad?

Understood literally (ie reducing dopamine levels), it is a fad. But understood correctly (ie focus on problematic behaviours), dopamine fasting can help you to regain more control over your life by improving your behavioural flexibility.

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We’ve all heard of peer pressure, and in one way or another, been affected by it. Peer pressure is a common phenomenon that stems from our fundamental need as social creatures to be accepted by others around us. This article aims to define “peer pressure”, and explore how it manifests in our lives. People often think of peer pressure in a negative light, but this is not necessarily accurate. Are there signs that tell us we are experiencing this? When we face peer pressure, what should we do?

What is Peer Pressure?

Peer pressure refers to the influence from those in a person’s peer group. It occurs when one feels that they must do similar things as others in their peer group, in order to gain their acceptance. These are things that they would not have done otherwise. The term “peer” typically refers to one’s friend. However, peers may include anyone with a similar social group, status, age, or ability. We tend to assume that peer pressure applies to youths, but it can affect anyone, including children and adults.

Is Peer Pressure Good or Bad?

What we are familiar with is the idea of peer pressure being a bad thing. When we hear the term, what comes to mind? Rebellious students skipping school? Underage drinking? Smoking? Bullying? Other negative examples may include sexting or having sex when you are not ready, gambling, criminal acts, and engaging in other risky behaviours. When a person behaves in a way that is not aligned with their values, it can be considered negative peer pressure. Even people with the strongest conviction to their values and morals may engage in behaviours that suggest the opposite so as to belong and be accepted among their peers.

Contrary to popular belief, though, peer pressure can also give rise to positive behaviours! Positive peer pressure can make one question and reflect on their own values, character and behaviour, and be inspired to work on them. In this way, peers may also influence each other to do better in their studies or sports, as well as cultivate healthy habits. Similarly, peer groups where values such as inclusion and kindness is practised (eg standing up for those who are being bullied) can be a source of motivation, support and acceptance to individuals that are part of the group.

Some Common Signs of Negative Peer Pressure

When trying to determine if peer pressure is positive or negative, look at the possible outcomes. Does it lead to negative consequences such as worsened physical and mental health? Are there criminal acts involved? Could anyone be harmed in the process? Would academic results be compromised? Or is the behaviour one that would potentially result in positive outcomes? Might it perhaps lead to someone being helped, for instance?

To identify instances of negative peer pressure in our lives, and avoid the detrimental effects, it may help to know what it feels or looks like for those experiencing it. Below are common signs of negative peer pressure. Bear in mind that some of them may be more difficult to notice than others.

Feelings of not fitting in

We know that every individual is different. Yet, when we perceive that we are different from others, we sometimes feel that we are the misfit. There is pressure to conform. This is especially salient for youths, as they explore their self-identity and seek a sense of belonging with their peers. When we feel that we do not fit in, we may consequently find ourselves avoiding social situations.

Signs of peer pressure may include feelings of not fitting in or comparing ourselves with others.

Comparing oneself to others

When a person compares themselves to others and wants what others have, that can be a sign of peer pressure. Examples include trying to look or dress a certain way and wanting to purchase only specific designer brands. Social media and mainstream media may also have a role to play in shaping what the “ideal” look or body is. Constantly comparing oneself to others may have the unintended consequence of increasing self-consciousness, dissatisfaction and anxiety.

Behaving differently

When someone does things that are out of character for them, it could be a result of peer pressure. Individuals may sometimes feel pressured into doing something that is not in line with their values and morals in order to gain the acceptance of their peers. This may include the way a person talks, or what they choose to do. For youths, examples may include skipping school or pursuing the latest trends.

Lower academic performance

For students, a sudden drop in academic grades could indicate the presence of negative peer pressure. Some youths may intentionally do badly in tests and examinations. This might be in a bid to appear cool or fit in with certain crowds. 

Apart from the above, difficulty sleeping and low moods are also plausible signs. Do note, however, that many of these signs may be due to other reasons, such as physical and mental health conditions. Should you be concerned about any of the signs listed above, consult a professional therapist.

4 Types of Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can present itself in various shapes and forms. It can be: 


Spoken peer pressure occurs when an individual is asked or convinced by others to engage in a certain behaviour. Often, the greater the number of people trying to persuade the individual, the greater the pressure. As such, in a group setting, the individual is often particularly susceptible to the influence of the group due to the latter’s strength in numbers. Conversely, in a one-to-one setting, the individual may not be as easily wavered as they are better able to stand their ground and act in accordance with their values. 


Unspoken peer pressure occurs when an individual observes certain behaviours of others and perceives a need to follow suit to fit in or be accepted. Some examples include dressing a certain way or joining sports teams or activity clubs when one does not feel otherwise inclined to.


Direct peer pressure can be either spoken or unspoken and is typically based on behaviours. An individual finds themselves having to make a decision on the spot, based on what has been presented to them. One example is when someone is handed a cigarette, even though they do not smoke. The person may then feel pressured to accept the cigarette to gain acceptance from the peer group.


Indirect peer pressure is the least invasive of the lot and can be either spoken or unspoken. It influences an individual by validating an activity or behaviour although they may not be the specific person another individual or the group is trying to convince directly. Rather, they are indirectly exposed to how others talk or respond to the said activity or behaviour, and feel the need to conform thereafter.

How to Deal with Negative Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can catch us by surprise. Not a particularly comfortable situation, as you might imagine. There are many ways that you can respond to unwelcome or detrimental negative peer pressure:

You can better manage peer pressure both internally, by build self-awareness and resilience, and externally, by surrounding yourself with supportive individuals or seeking professional support.

Be aware when it is happening

The first step to managing peer pressure is to recognise when it is happening. Keep the signs in mind. Who is pressuring you? What are they trying to convince you to do? What exactly is entailed? If secrecy is involved, what might the reasons for that be? Ask yourself how you feel about what they are asking you to do. Do you think you would make the same decision if you weren’t alone? What might be the consequences if you were to give in? What are some benefits? Costs?

Know your own boundaries and values

Understanding your boundaries in relation to the situation at hand can be helpful. Where would you draw the line? What are you okay and not okay with? Are these negotiable? What morals or values do these boundaries stem from? Be clear about them. This will help to guide you in making a logical and informed decision when faced with peer pressure.

Learn to say no

More often than not, we agree to do something even though we are not comfortable with it. A common reason is that we are afraid to say no to others. This could stem from wanting to be liked, or a fear of confrontation. Saying no is an important and useful skill to have in life. If saying no is difficult for you, come up with different ways to say no. Experiment. Practice again and again. Notice what works better for you. Which ways are you more comfortable with, or less uncomfortable with? Know that if you are not comfortable explaining, the word “no” alone is a full sentence. Learning more about assertive communication is very helpful here. The more you practise, the easier it will get. It is possible to remain friends with someone who does things you that don’t like, without you having to change for them. 

Limit your exposure

Another option is to limit your exposure to negative peer influence. Stay away from people who pressure you into making decisions that incur negative consequences for yourself or others. Spend less time with them where you can. In some cases, negative peer pressure comes from people whom we are unable to avoid entirely, such as schoolmates or colleagues. In such cases, limit your interactions as much as you can. You do not need to be friends with everyone. Neither do you need to be liked by everyone. There will always be people out there who share your values.

Surround yourself with supportive individuals

Instead, spend time with individuals who respect your boundaries. Better yet if you can spend more time with individuals who foster positive behaviours! This could be people who speak up against bullying others, volunteer groups, study groups, religious groups, or even sports teams. Of course, they could also be friends or family members whom you trust.

Seek help and support

Peer pressure often succeeds because of strength in numbers. We often don’t want to be the odd one out, so we give in when pressured by a group. In such uncomfortable situations, we can feel very alone. Remember that there will always be someone who would be willing to support us, even if they are not physically present in that moment. They may be schoolmates, teachers, colleagues, supervisors, or religious leaders. They could even be random strangers who stand up for what is right. It is normal to feel lost and confused. If you are unsure of how to even bring up the topic, professional therapy can bridge the gap by offering a safe and confidential space for you to share your concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is peer pressure and how to overcome it?

Peer pressure affects all of us, whether we like it or not. Knowing and acknowledging it for what it is can help us decide what to do next. If it is negative, we always have the option to say no. We can also take the intentional step of being mindful about who we surround ourselves with, and who we chose to be closer to. When all else fails, know that help is always available.

Wanting to “fit in”, liked, or accepted by one’s peers is often a cause of peer pressure.

What causes peer pressure?

Prevalent causes include wanting to “fit in”, wanting to be liked by others, or wanting to be accepted by one’s peers. Indeed, it is often a natural desire for social creatures like us humans! There may be other reasons for being susceptible to peer pressure, including certain personal insecurities or confusion, low self-esteem, hormonal reasons, having prior experience of being bullied, and a fear of rejection. Parenting and social learning theory have also been offered as possible explanations.

What are its impacts?

Some of its impacts include bullying, mental health concerns, changes in appearance, changes in the way one talks and behaves, changes in academic grades, and changes in school attendance. Certain risky behaviours may also occur as a result of peer pressure.

Where does peer pressure happen the most?

Studies have shown that adolescents are especially affected by peer pressure. However, it can affect anyone from young children to elderly.

What are some positive examples?

The examples mentioned above were studying and participating in sports. Aside from these, there are many more ways in which peer pressure can be positive. It can influence one to quit undesirable behaviours such as smoking or gambling. Other examples include eating more healthily and exercising, being more punctual, exploring positive hobbies, finding ways to support others, and so on.

How to get help for someone who has experienced peer pressure?

Depending on the situation, you may offer help in various ways. One way is to notify someone of authority, who is in a position intervene. This might be a teacher, a leader, or a supervisor. If the affected individual is a child or adolescent, you may wish to notify their parent or guardian.

Assuming that it is safe to do so, you may let the affected individual know that they are not alone. You may offer support by asking them how you could be of assistance. Alternatively, you may support them by offering a nonjudgmental listening ear. Based on what they need, you can then direct them to the relevant resources, such as professional therapy.

If you think that you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call the police or emergency services in your country.

How does it affect society?

Peer pressure affects adolescents’ decision making. On top of that, it has been linked to crime and juvenile delinquency.

How can we stop peer pressure?

Not all peer pressure is bad. It can be helpful to understand its definition, recognise when it is happening, and distinguish if it is positive or negative before taking any action. To stop negative peer pressure, we may practise different ways of saying no or limit our exposure to it, wherever possible. Lastly, seek help from someone you trust, a person of authority, or a professional therapist.

How do I talk to my child about peer pressure?

Be creative about when to start the conversation. Observe and take note of naturally occurring chances to talk about the topic. For example, when you come across a relevant news article related to peer pressure, or when instances of it are depicted on social media. You may also take the chance to discuss the topic with your child when someone happens to bring it up.

Ask your child about their thoughts on the matter. Show them that you are truly interested in listening to what they have to say. You can do this by allowing them to speak and not interrupting them with your own opinion or judgment. Notice what they are saying, as well as their nonverbal behaviour. If you can guess what they might be feeling, reflect that back to them by asking if that is how they feel about it. If you’d like them to share more, use open-ended follow up questions to elicit more than a one-word response. An example is, “I wonder what you might do if that happened to you?”

Lastly, be patient with them. It may not be easy for your child to confide in you about the issues they are faced with. Give them some time and space if they feel apprehensive to do so. 

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It can be terrifying to hear yourself think, “I want to die”.
Perhaps it might have been a one-off fleeting thought that caught you by surprise, or perhaps the thought has been on your mind for some time.

“I really want to die, I don’t want to live anymore, I just want to die.”

When the helplessness and hopelessness feel all too real, it is easy to sink into the thought that you are alone in this experience. It might surprise you then, that the struggle with “why do I want to die?” is battled by hundreds of thousands of people each year. In other words, in this very minute, multiple people have felt the same way as you. You are far from alone, although it can certainly feel that way sometimes.

This article explains what being “suicidal” means. Some common suicide warning signs and causes for suicidal ideation are listed. Typical misconceptions about suicidal thoughts are examined and clarified. Next, the article introduces different ways to get help and support for feeling suicidal or having suicidal thoughtsFinally, the article sheds some light on crisis support services and how seeking professional help may be beneficial in the long term.

As a first step, it is important to acknowledge that thoughts such as “I want to die” can be very distressing to experience.

Am I Suicidal?

I want to die: Suicidal ideation

What is suicidal ideation? Suicidal ideation refers to having thoughts or ideas about suicide or ending one’s own life. There is a difference between active suicidal ideation and passive suicidal ideation. A person with active suicidal ideation has thoughts of suicide as well as a plan to carry it out. On the other hand, a person is said to have passive suicidal ideation if they are thinking about suicide, but do not have a plan to carry it out

Either way, the feelings can be overwhelming. Suicide ideation is a distinct concept from a suicide attempt. The latter occurs when a person acts on suicidal thoughts and harms themselves with the intention of ending their own life, but do not die due to their actions.

Warning Signs


Are you worried that yourself or someone close to you is at risk of suicide? Here are some common suicide warning signs keep an eye out for. The suicide warning signs may manifest in terms of speech, behaviour, and/or mood.

  • Talking about wanting to die or having plans to take one’s own life, eg expressing thoughts such as “I want to die”
  • Talking about being burdensome to loved ones, eg “My partner’s life would be better without me”
  • Sharing about overwhelming or intolerable emotional pain, eg “I can’t take this anymore”
  • Expressions of hopelessness, eg “Life is meaningless”
  • Expressions of helplessness or feeling trapped, eg “It’s no use”
  • Threats about killing oneself, eg “If you don’t do _____, I will kill myself”
  • Saying goodbyes


  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Doing research on ways to die
  • Writing suicide notes
  • Arranging for possessions to be given away


  • Drastic mood swings or emotional outbursts that seem out of character, eg uncharacteristic displays of anxiety, anger, frustration, irritability, impulsivity
  • Loss of interest in or enjoyment of activities that were previously liked
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
If you are experiencing any of the suicide warning signs above, please know this: you are important and you matter. This is regardless of how much your thoughts try to convince you otherwise. People who are experiencing suicidal ideation sometimes think (mistakenly) that their absence would not make a difference to those around them. This subjective perception may be different from the reality. In fact, studies have shown that for each suicide, at least six lives of those left behind are impacted. Common experiences of those left behind include shock and anger. Often, they experience guilt for not noticing the warning signs, or for not doing something to prevent the suicide earlier. They may also be at risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts themselves.


There is typically no single cause for thoughts like “I want to die”. Often, individuals with suicidal ideation feel overwhelmingly helpless or hopeless. Life may seem meaningless and bleak. When a crisis like this happens, tunnel vision can occur, where suicide appears to be the only way out.

These are some of the risk factors for suicide ideation:

  • Having a previous suicide attempt or attempts
  • Having a family history of suicide
  • Knowing someone else who died by suicide
  • Having mental health conditions (eg depression)
  • Having medical conditions (eg a chronic disease, terminal illness, and chronic pain)
  • Stressful life events or changes (eg the death of a loved one, unemployment, a breakup, and financial or legal difficulties)
  • A history of abuse, trauma, or neglect
  • Being from the LGBT community
  • Being a victim of bullying
  • Access to weapons

Myths about Suicide

feeling alone

Even when suicide signs are clearly present, we sometimes hesitate and refrain from seeking the help we need. This can sometimes be despite help and support being readily available. 

Perhaps we are unsure of how to even start talking about the issue, or how to reach out. Or, we might be concerned about what others may think. We may also think twice before offering support to someone who is suicidal. Why? Because we fear that we might worsen the situation instead. Often, these fears are premised on preconceived notions that we mistakenly assume to be trueLet’s examine some of these myths in this section.

Myth 1: People with suicidal ideation want to die.

Reality: Most people who contemplate suicide do not want to die. What they do want is for their pain to end. In the moments of despair, however, options of how they could end their pain may seem limited. This may result in ambivalence: I don’t want to live, but I don’t want to die. What can be helpful immediately is calling the local suicide prevention helpline to speak to someoneA trained crisis helpline staff or volunteer can provide a safe listening ear for you in this difficult, low momentWhen the time is right, a gentle exploration of various possibilities could instil hope.

Myth 2: People experiencing suicidal ideation are just seeking attention. They won’t actually end their own lives.

Reality: “I want to die”, or other ways of talking about suicide, is a call for help. Instead of turning away or dismissing a person’s experience when they are at their lowest, direct them to someone who can help. This could be their loved one, a trained professional, or a person of authority in their life. You could be saving a life.

 Myth 3: Bringing up the topic of suicide may plant the idea of suicide in a person’s mind.

Reality: This could not be further from the truth. Asking someone if they are feeling suicidal shows that you are genuinely concerned for them. It also gives the person a chance to reach out for help. It lets them know that someone has noticed, and that someone cares about them. That in itself can be a simple but powerful moment. Take note, though, that conversations that occur when helping someone in crisis should be explored carefully.

Myth 4: Only people with mental illnesses are suicidal.

Reality: Suicide can affect anyone, anywhere. It affects people regardless of age, nationality, ethnicity, physical health, mental health, or economic statusWhile suicidal thoughts might sometimes be a symptom of certain mental health conditions such as depression, there are people suffering from mental illnesses who do not contemplate suicide. At the same time, there are individuals without mental illnesses who contemplate suicide. Essentially, there is no standard “look” or “type” for people who contemplate suicide.

 Myth 5: Suicides occur suddenly with no warning.

Reality: In most cases, suicide warning signs would have occurred before the suicide. However, loved ones may not have known or recognised what the individual was going through. It thus might have appeared that the suicide occurred suddenly out of the blue. It is thus important to be aware of the suicide warning signs so that help can be sought early.

Myth 6: Suicidal thoughts have one single cause.

Reality: Suicidal thoughts don’t have one single cause. Suicidal ideation is a complex issue, often involving multiple stressors and causes. Much is unknown in the literature. Factors that are thought to increase one’s risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts include major life stressors, knowing someone who died by suicide, chronic health conditions, having experienced abuse, access to weapons, and having had past suicide attempts.

Get Help & Support for Suicide

suicidal support

What do I do when I feel like I want to die? No matter how bleak or hopeless you may think your situation is, remember that there is always someone out there who is willing to hear you out. There are many ways an individual can reach out for help and support.

Immediate Help and Support

If you are feeling suicidal now, here are some things you can do.

Seek crisis intervention

Call your local suicide prevention helplineAlternatively, visit the accident and emergency department of a hospital near you. If you are hesitant to go alone, ask a trusted individual to accompany you. The focus at this stage is to ensure your safety.

Trained helpline professionals can provide a safe, empathetic, and non-judgmental space for you to share your concerns. They will support you in shifting from crisis mode to a calmer state of mind. They may also be able to refer you to relevant resources in your local community.

Seek social support

As humans, we are hardwired for connection. Reach out. Seek social support from someone you feel safe with. This could be a trusted friend, colleague, teacher, religious leader, family member, or relative. Tell them how you feel. Sharing our struggles reminds us that we are not alone. Of course, how much you choose to share is up to you. You could also simply spend time together, share a meal, catch a movie, or exercise together.

Do something you find relaxing

This might be eating your favourite meal, listening to a song you love, looking at pictures of your pet, watching funny videos, taking a walk in a park, or anything else that helps you relaxThere are many online videos offering guided progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing exercises. Find positive ways to distract yourself and make yourself calmer. When we are calmer, we are better able to evaluate our options.

Take things one step at a time

Instead of trying to solve all the problems in your life in this one moment, slow down. Focus on getting through just one day at a time. If you need to, try getting through even just one hour at a time. Give yourself time. You may notice that some hours are less unbearable than others. It may help to acknowledge this, and allow yourself to take baby steps. Practise self-compassion, and be kinder to yourself.

Long Term Support

Tough times do not disappear overnight. Improving our mental health takes much effort, but is rewarding. There are various things that we can do to improve our overall mental health in the long run. These serve to buffer us against the stressors of life.
Create a safety plan
The purpose of a safety plan is to keep you safe when a crisis occurs. Ideally, this plan should be created before a crisis occurs, when you feel calm. You may create a safety plan on your own using an online templateAlternatively, a trained mental health professional may guide you in co-creating a safety plan tailored for you.
What does a safety plan look like? A safety plan generally includes warning signs that a crisis may be occurring, and coping strategies that you can use on your own. It also lists supportive people you can reach out to in times of crisis. This may include loved ones and friends, as well as local organisations and professionals you can turn to for support. You may also note down ways to make your environment safer. Last but not least, you may list things or people that motivate you to live. For some individuals, this could even be their pets who depend on them.
Initially, these points may seem obvious as you create a safety plan. However, having this information at your fingertips can be immensely helpful when feelings overwhelm you during a crisis.
Avoid self-blame

Feelings are never wrong or right; they are just that – feelings. All feelings are valid. Feeling overwhelmed is valid too. Having suicidal thoughts is typically a response to multiple stressors in life. It does not mean that you are weak, or that something is “wrong” with you. On the contrary, it takes a huge lot of courage for someone who is feeling down to reach out for help. Talking about your feelings can be difficult. It is normal to be unsure of how to even start talking to someone about your feelings.


 When we are experiencing a tough time emotionally, it can be easy to overlook our physical health. We all know that exercise improves our mood and wellbeing. Exercise allows our body to release dopamine, also known as the “feel-good hormone”.

Seek professional support

Combining social support with professional therapy is a common option, for various reasons. For example, while relationships with our loved ones offer informal support and familiarity, therapists offer objectivity as they are removed from and hence neutral about the situationA professional therapist can work with you to identify potential triggers and explore options. They can also co-create a safety plan with you. With the help of therapy, individuals often report greater emotional awareness and increased clarity about their situation.

For instance, many people do not feel comfortable disclosing too much about their situation to the people in their livesProfessional therapy thus offers a safe and trusting relationship that does not overlap with their personal lives. A therapist is also bound by confidentiality in accordance with local ethical standards.

Personal boundaries also play a role. A professional therapist will work with you to explore what you would like to get out of the counselling relationship in the long termSome examples include greater self-awareness, emotional coping techniques, and communication skills, to name a few. It is up to the client to decide their counselling goals.
Here’s something to note, though. People sometimes believe that a problem needs to be “major enough” to justify seeking professional help. This is a key point to remember: you don’t have to wait for a problem to get worse before you try to make it better. People go to therapy for all sorts of purposes, including general self-awareness and self-improvement.
Think about this. There are people who go to the gym to rebuild their muscles after an injury. There are also people who go to the gym to build muscles and be healthy in general. The same applies to your thoughts and emotions.

Conclusion: "I Want to Die"

I want to die
Picking yourself up from having thoughts such as “I just want to die, I don’t want to live anymore” might just be the most challenging thing you’ve ever had to do in your lifeChances are, you’ve been through an immensely difficult time, with a tonne of distressing thoughts, to get to this pointPerhaps there were people along the way who had misconceptions about suicide. Perhaps they didn’t understand. You’re here now. So is help. Why go through this alone?
There is hope.
Note: this article is not intended to replace professional advice or crisis intervention. If you are in immediate danger, contact your local suicide prevention helpline or emergency service. 
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