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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From affect to action : daily emotions and non-suicidal self-injury Victor, Sarah


Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is the intentional, direct injury to one’s body that results in tissue damage, is not socially sanctioned, and is not suicidal in nature. Individuals who engage in NSSI experience elevated levels of emotion dysregulation (Gratz & Tull, 2010) and negative emotional experiences (Andover & Gibb, 2010; Ross & Heath, 2002); these difficulties help explain the consistent finding that individuals typically engage in NSSI as a way to regulate emotional experiences (Klonsky, 2007). Research on emotional experiences in this population has focused primarily on broad measures of positive versus negative emotion. Little research has been done on specific emotional experiences – including the particular emotions and dimensions of emotional reactivity -- that characterize the daily lives of individuals who engage in NSSI compared to those who do not. Additionally, research is lacking regarding the specific emotional states related to prospective risk of NSSI. This study investigated specific emotions and three dimensions of emotional reactivity – frequency, intensity, and duration -- in a sample of primarily university undergraduates with either no history of NSSI or a recent history of NSSI. Participants completed baseline measures of specific emotional experiences and NSSI behaviors, as well as potentially relevant confounds such as personality disorder symptoms. Participants then completed daily diary measures of specific emotional experiences and NSSI behaviors over fourteen days. Results indicated that individuals with a history of NSSI experience significantly greater levels of several negative emotional states, and significantly lower levels of several positive emotional states, than individuals with no NSSI history. The emotion that best differentiated current self-injurers was high self-dissatisfaction. Prospectively, baseline report of duration of negative emotional experiences best predicted performance of NSSI during the subsequent diary period. These results suggest that self-dissatisfaction may be a specific emotional experience associated with the decision to engage in NSSI, while the duration of negative emotional experiences may be related to continuing NSSI behaviors in individuals with a history of NSSI.

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