Coping and problem solving of self-mutilators*


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    *Originally published in Volume 53, Number 2, 1997, pages 177–186.


People who self-mutilate have been hypothesized to have deficient skills in coping and problem-solving that leave them vulnerable to the adoption of self-mutilation as a coping strategy. This hypothesis was tested using male incarcerated self-mutilators with comparisons being made with non-mutilating, prisoner, and non-prisoner control groups. Examination of the inherent resources which enable an individual to effectively cope with stress demonstrated a depressed score for self-mutilators on the scale measuring self-worth and optimism about life. Assessment of the strategies used to cope with real problems demonstrated that self-mutilators engage in more problem avoidance behaviors. Self-mutilators also recorded less perceived control over problem-solving options. The results are discussed in terms of the effectiveness of self-mutilation as a coping strategy and the need to adopt a multidimensional approach to the investigation of coping. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol, 2003.