Nonsuicidal self-injury and diminished pain perception: The role of emotion dysregulation

Joseph C. Franklin, Rachel V. Aaron, Michael S. Arthur, S. Paul Shorkey, Mitchell J. Prinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is the deliberate destruction of one's own body tissue in the absence of suicidal intent (e.g., cutting or burning the skin). Previous studies have found that people with a history of NSSI display diminished pain perception. However, it remains unclear why this effect occurs. In the present study, we used a sample of participants with (n = 25) and without (n = 47) a history of NSSI to test the hypothesis that emotion dysregulation partially explains why NSSI is associated with diminished pain perception. Pain perception was quantified as pain threshold, pain tolerance, and pain intensity ratings assessed during the cold pressor task. Nonsuicidal self-injury was associated with increased emotion dysregulation and diminished pain perception. Results showed that emotion dysregulation was correlated with diminished pain perception within both groups, demonstrating that this association exists regardless of NSSI history. Results also specified that emotion dysregulation partially accounted for the association between NSSI and pain tolerance but not other pain variables. Overall, results were consistent with the hypothesis that emotion dysregulation may increase NSSI risk in part by increasing the willingness to experience the pain involved in self-injury. Studies are needed to more directly investigate this hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-700
Number of pages10
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Volume53
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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