Background: Although the fluctuating nature of suicidal ideation (SI) has been described previously, longitudinal studies investigating the dynamics of SI are scarce. Aim: To demonstrate the fluctuation of SI across 6 days and up to 60 measurement points using smartphone-based ecological momentary assessments (EMA).
Method: Twenty inpatients with unipolar depression and current and/or lifetime suicidal ideation rated their momentary SI 10 times per day over a 6-day period. Mean squared successive difference (MSSD) was calculated as a measure of variability. Correlations of MSSD with severity of depression, number of previous depressive episodes, and history of suicidal behavior were examined.
Results: Individual trajectories of SI are shown to illustrate fluctuation. MSSD values ranged from 0.2 to 21.7. No significant correlations of MSSD with several clinical parameters were found, but there are hints of associations between fluctuation of SI and severity of depression and suicidality.
Limitations: Main limitation of this study is the small sample size leading to low power and probably missing potential effects. Further research with larger samples is necessary to shed light on the dynamics of SI.
Conclusion: The results illustrate the dynamic nature and the diversity of trajectories of SI across 6 days in psychiatric inpatients with unipolar depression. Prediction of the fluctuation of SI might be of high clinical relevance. Further research using EMA and sophisticated analyses with larger samples is necessary to shed light on the dynamics of SI.