Escaping the Self Consumes Regulatory Resources: A Self-Regulatory Model of Suicide

Kathleen D. Vohs, Roy F. Baumeister

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


ConclusionsThe proposed model argues that self-regulatory resource depletion underlies central aspects of the escape model of suicide, specifically attentional processes and emotional regulation. In response to misfortunes that cast the self in an unacceptablybad light, the person first tries to regulate negative affect.Afteraffect regulation fails, the person next tries to regulate attention by cultivating a focus on meaningless, concrete, nonevaluative stimuli. The resulting state of cognitive deconstruction alleviates self-awareness of personal weaknesses but also removes inhibitions against suicide. But these efforts to regulate emotions and attention and to sustain the deconstructed state lead to a depletion of self-regulatory resources, rendering it difficult for the person to exit the suicide spiral. Our model is supported by research on the effects of cognitive deconstruction, passivity and disinhibition, as well as by studies relating suicide factors to self-regulation and those relating suicide and impulse control problems to neurological mechanisms. We believe that examining the self-regulatoryaspects of escapist behaviors, such as suicide, will allow researchers and practitioners to better identify at-riskpatients and allow for improved treatment of their symptoms. We advocate aiding at-risk individuals, such as those with impulse control problems or self-regulation difficulties, to replenish self-regulatory resources by engaging in self-regulatory activities in which they will be successful. Successful experiences with self-regulation may enable the person to cope successfully with negative events that otherwise couldbegina self-destructive cycle.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSuicide Science: Expanding the Boundaries
EditorsThomas Joiner, M. David Rudd
Place of PublicationBoston, MA
PublisherSpringer US
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)978-0-306-47233-6
StatePublished - 2002


  • Binge Eating
  • Impulse Control Problem
  • Negative Affect
  • Perceive Weight Status
  • Regulatory Resource


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