Category: Suicide and Self-Injury
Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is defined as the deliberate destruction of one’s own tissue without intent to die and for reasons that are socially unacceptable. There is little existing research on the desire to stop self-injuring. The aim of the present study was to compare individuals who do and do not want to stop self-injuring on NSSI methods and functions, psychopathology, and distress tolerance. It was hypothesized that those who want to continue NSSI would have higher rates of psychopathology and lower levels of distress tolerance, engage in more severe methods of NSSI, and have more intrapersonal functions than those who want to stop self-injuring. Hypotheses were tested in a sample of 347 college students with a lifetime history of NSSI. They were divided into Continue NSSI (n=43) and STOP NSSI (n=304) groups based on their response to an item about their desire to stop NSSI. Data was also collected on NSSI methods and frequency, depression, anxiety, and eating disorder symptoms, and distress tolerance. T-tests found no significant differences between groups for distress tolerance, anxiety levels, depression, and disordered eating symptoms. However, differences were found when comparing the groups on NSSI characteristics. The Continue NSSI group had a significantly higher lifetime frequency of NSSI than the Stop NSSI group. While there were no differences in number of NSSI methods reported between the two groups, individuals in the Continue NSSI group used minor self-harm methods significantly more frequently than those in the Stop NSSI group. A one-way ANOVA revealed that there were no significant differences in interpersonal functions between the two groups, but those in the Stop NSSI group rated intrapersonal functions as significantly more relevant than the Continue NSSI. Affect regulation was rated as especially relevant for those in the Stop NSSI group compared to the Continue NSSI group. While some significant differences were found between groups on NSSI characteristics, most hypotheses were not supported. The n-size discrepancy between the “stop” and “continue” cessation desire groups may be a contributing factor. It may also be the case that cessation desire for NSSI has minimal association with level of psychopathology. It could be that having any history of NSSI increases an individual’s risk for depression and anxiety symptoms compared to those with no history of NSSI. Those wishing to continue NSSI used minor NSSI methods more frequently than those wanting to stop; minor methods may not be perceived as particularly damaging, thus decreasing desire or feelings of urgency to stop. Lastly, it was expected that the Stop NSSI group would report more interpersonal functions of NSSI, with the assumption that the desire to stop may partly come from external pressure from loved ones. The opposite was found, with the Stop NSSI group reporting more intrapersonal functions, indicating that they perhaps would like to find alternative methods of managing intrapersonal processes such as affection regulation. Future research on motivations to stop or continue self-injuring will help tailor treatments for NSSI, and generate ideas to encourage treatment seeking.