The Relationship of Suicidal Ideation to Objective and Subjective Executive Functioning

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Abstract

Prior research on executive ability and suicidal ideation (SI) has frequently failed to account for either symptom or performance validity. Similarly, studies have not adequately examined both objective performance on executive tests and subjective report of executive deficits in relationship to SI. The purpose of this study was to address these gaps in research by accounting for performance validity, symptom validity, and considering self-reported executive complaints with objective performance. We hypothesized that (a) increases in self-reported SI on the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI; Morey, 1991) Suicidal Ideation subscale would be related to poorer performance on objective and subjective tests of executive function and (b) level of self-reported depressive symptoms would moderate the relationship between SI and measures of executive function, such that individuals with higher levels of both depressive symptoms and executive dysfunction would be more likely to experience higher levels of SI. No measure of executive function was related to SI when accounting for demographic variables and depressive symptoms. Wisconsin Card Sort Test categories completed was the only measure of executive function to interact significantly with depressive symptoms to predict SI (β = .43). Of particular note, self-reported executive dysfunction was highly correlated with Beck Depression Inventory−II (Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996) scores (r = .78). Clinical implications and future directions for research are discussed.

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