Animal models of self-destructive behavior and suicide

J. N. Crawley, M. E. Sutton, D. Pickar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we have addressed selected aspects of animal models thay may have ramifications in our understanding of suicide and human self-destructive behavior. It should be kept in mind that these human behaviors have many determinants. In considering animal models, we do not propose that similar behaviors necessarily have the same causation nor that a particular experimental manipulation that produces a behavioral syndrome in one species will produce that response in another species. Even if environmental conditions or the resulting behaviors vary for different species, the biochemical intermediaries may be similar. The simplification inherent in the laboratory modeling of an aspect of human behavior should not mean that the complexity of the human syndrome be forgotten. However, if a simple explanation can account for the production of a particular behavioral syndrome in animals, it can help to structure our thoughts regarding the etiology of the behavior in humans. The ethologic observations discussed in this article may help to place human self-destructive behavior in a continuum with that of animals in the wild. Although care should be given to drawing direct parallels, the clear conclusion is that humans are not alone in exhibiting self-initiated behaviors that ultimately produce self-harm or death. Whereas laboratory models have been extensively used for modeling psychiatric illnesses or for producing specific pharmacologic manipulations of the CNS, surprisingly little attention has been given to the modeling of self-destructive behaviors themselves. Emphasis on self-destructive behaviors, as well as on their biologic and genetic underpinnings, represent an important future direction for work on animal models in psychiatry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-310
Number of pages12
JournalPsychiatric Clinics of North America
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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