What is Anomic Suicide?

In 1951, a French sociologist Emile Durkheim came up with five suicide types in his book “Suicide: A Study in Sociology”, based on the social conditions in which they occurred. Anomic suicide is one of them. Let’s have a detailed look at what anomic suicides are; their examples, causes, and types.

Anomie refers to a state where an individual feels lost or confused. Some social psychologists define it as a situation where a society enters a condition of normlessness, meaninglessness, and purposelessness. We can say that anomie is an insatiable condition of an individual or a society that results from a breakdown of norms, standards, values, purposes, and ideals. Anomic suicides are the consequence of sudden and marked disruptions, such as the sudden loss of a prestigious position or job. Suicides following a bankruptcy or winning a lottery also fall under this type.

Examples of Anomic Suicides

Anomic suicides are the result of sudden disruptions in a societal setting. If one becomes unable to conform to a sudden change in society, they may lose meaning in their life and commit suicide. The following are some of the most relevant examples of anomic suicides.

  • Suicide following the loss of a prestigious position
  • Suicide after losing a high-prestige job
  • Suicide following a separation or divorce
  • Suicide after winning a prestigious position
  • Suicide after winning a lottery
  • Suicide following a monetary loss
  • Mass suicide following a country-wide or global financial crisis
  • Suicide resulting from a sudden stress

Anomic Suicide Causes

Durkheim proposed two societal factors that could affect suicidal rates in a social setting. These factors include integration and regulation. The former indicates the extent of coherence between an individual and their society. The latter refers to the extent a society controls an individual and their actions. When the balance between the two factors is disturbed or disrupted, that results in high suicide rates.

Anomic suicide occurs when there’s an insufficient amount or lack of social regulation and an individual feels accidental and high levels of stress, frustration, and worthlessness. In this kind of scenario, usually, a breakdown of previous social norms and values has occurred and new values haven’t yet developed. This situation, according to Durkheim, leads most individuals to feel severely disturbed, distressed, futile, worthless, and empty. In most cases, an individual completely lacks the motivation to do something about the situation because they don’t even know what is desirable.

Before an anomic suicide occurs, an individual has usually failed to find an acceptable means of achieving their goals. Personal goals might become so important for an individual that if he fails to find acceptable means to achieve their goals, they may resort to illegitimate means to achieve them. Too much emphasis on goals rather than means leads an individual to get blinded, and in consequence, shatter the regulation imposed by society.

For example, in a society that impels its individuals to generate money without providing adequate means to do so, the resulting stress would motivate individuals to break the rules imposed by the society. In this case, the fear of punishment and personal motives of an individual would become the only regulating authorities. As a result, anomie results, which, in turn, forces the remaining individuals to commit crimes or suicide.

While Durkheim used the term “anomie” regarding a social setting, the term has been used by some psychologists to refer to a psychological condition of a person. It happens when a person doesn’t find a suitable niche for him or her in society. They usually find themselves rejected, worthless, and useless in society. In this case, they have rejected social bonds and think of themselves as “misfits” in society. They also find it hard to relate to society, think that society has lost its position, and their goals are not being translated. As a result, they think it futile to fulfill their obligations, largely because they don’t have dependable associates.

You can see how anomie in a society leads an individual to intently destroy their lives.

Types of Anomic Suicides

According to Durkheim, there are at least four types of anomic suicides:

Acute economic anomie: sporadic anomie resulting from a decreased capacity of traditional social structures of the pre-industrial era to cater to the social needs of an individual.

Chronic economic anomie: slow, persistent, and long-term disruption of social regulation, such as caused by the industrial revolution. According to Durkheim, the industrial revolution destabilized and finally devastated traditional regulators, such as religion, guilds, and other pre-industrial structures without sustainably replacing them.

Acute domestic anomie: abrupt social changes at the microlevel, such as widowhood, as a result of which an individual fails to adapt to a societal setting and commits suicide.

Chronic domestic anomie: this type of anomie is caused by marriage as an institution. For example, bachelors have higher suicide rates due to a lack of regulation and established means and goals. On the other hand, married women suffer more from anomie than their unmarried counterparts. That’s because marriage can further limit their already restricted lives and they fail to find a purpose in society.

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