Motivations for Self-Injury, Affect, and Impulsivity: A Comparison of Individuals with Current Self-Injury to Individuals with a History of Self-Injury

Authors


Address correspondence to Sarah Fischer, Psychology Building, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602; E-mail: fischer@uga.edu

Abstract

Individuals who report nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) are characterized by the tendency to act rashly while experiencing distress (negative urgency), the tendency to act without thinking, and endorsement of both social and affect regulation motives for the behavior. However, very little research has identified characteristics that distinguish current self-injurers from those with a history of the behavior. The purpose of this study was to compare individuals with current self-injury to a history of self-injury on impulsivity-related personality traits, motives for self-injury, and distress. Among a sample of 429 undergraduates, 120 reported self-injury. Among these 120 individuals, 33 endorsed self-injury within the past month, with a mean frequency of 4.77 acts of NSSI. Within the self-injury group, current self-injurers reported higher endorsement of affect regulation motives for NSSI, and higher levels of current negative affect than individuals with a history of self-injury. There were no differences between current and former self-injurers on measures of impulsivity, endorsement of social motives for NSSI, or positive affect. We propose that individuals who use NSSI to regulate negative affect may be more likely to repeatedly engage in this behavior over time.

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