Dhingra, Katie and Naylor, Paul (2013) Non-suicidal self-injury among university students. In: Third International Congress of Community Life at School, 8-10th May 2013, Madrid. (Unpublished)

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a highly prevalent behaviour among both clinical and non-clinical samples (Nock, 2010). Despite this, little research has systematically examined these behaviours among university students. This paper presents the findings of research which aimed to describe NSSI characteristics, examine sex differences, and explore reasons why individuals elect to engage in NSSI behaviours. Students (n = 419 self-injurers; n = 342 controls) completed a self-report measure of NSSI; the Personal experiences of NSSI scale. Findings indicated that the average age of NSSI onset, for both sexes, was during adolescence (Mage = 15.1 years); that cutting, and severe scratching/pinching of the skin were the most common methods; and that individuals report engaging in NSSI to regulate their internal state (e.g., “to release emotional pressure”) far more frequently than to influence the behaviours of others. Significant sex differences also emerged, with females more likely than males to scratch/pinch the skin and hair-pull; to self-injure for emotion regulation, control, and to attract help. Males were more likely than females to bang/punch objects and insert objects under the skin/nails; to endorse the statements “to see if I can/could stand the pain” and “out of curiosity”; and to explain their NSSI as a result of being on a drug induced ‘high’ or alcoholically drunk. Suggestions for treatment strategies that address individual’s use of emotion regulation strategies and negative self-view will be offered along with directions for future research.

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