Can you kill yourself by holding your breath?

A question which seems enter everyone’s mind for reasons unknown at some point of their lives.

The answer more often than not seems to unanimously be no. You cannot commit suicide by holding your breath in. Or can you?

In ancient Greece, death by breath-holding has been the reported death of a few of it’s famous characters. Ancient Greek philosopher and perhaps the most memorable cynic Diogenes is said to have commited suicide by holding his breath for 3 days,  as apparently did his contemporaries Metrocles  and Zeno of Citium.

Science however appears to disagree.  The popular opinion is  your body will not let you suffocate. When in sufficient oxygen-debt, Carotid Bodies will signal your brain that your body is in trouble, and no matter how strong your willpower is, you will be forced to take a breath.

Although the veracity of this is debatable it has been said before  the convulsions of a hanging body are those very same signals demanding oxygen.

What if we make the conditions as ideal as possible?

We all remember the dangerous game played in elementary school, where after  a period of hyperventilating in the squatting position you got one of your friends to push on your chest, performing a Valsalva Maneuver.  A game that was perhaps many youngsters first experience led by the curiosity of an altered reality.

Well there is a recorded death due to this game, a 12-year-old boy in 1981 died as a result of passing out. However the exact cause of his death was the contact the back of his head made with an object on the playground, making this incident ultimately irrelevant to our investigation.

Although somewhat counter-intuitive, apparently during resuscitation, hyper-ventilation increases mortality rate.  It has been reported that even though most paramedics are trained not to, during the administration of CPR most send patients into states of hyperventilation increasing their risk of death.

Apparently even on it’s own hyperventilation can kill.

So maybe holding your breath alone won’t do the job. Doing the opposite will.   After all the reason most people embark on this line of questioning is to see if it’s possible to kill yourself *without anything*.  Perhaps searching for comfort in knowing that their life is always in their hands.

Although be careful it seems more often than death, the result achieved is brain death.