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What Is the Role of Dissociation and Emptiness in the Occurrence of Nonsuicidal Self-Injury?

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Many episodes of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) are reportedly performed for the purpose of feeling generation; however, little is known about the pathways through which such behavior emerges. To address this knowledge gap, we examined the relations among childhood abuse, self-reported feelings of dissociation and emptiness, and the occurrence of NSSI. Eighty-six adolescents were included in this study and completed self-report measures of each construct. The results support a model in which dissociation and emptiness separately mediate the relation between childhood emotional abuse and the occurrence of NSSI. Moreover, as hypothesized, emotional abuse, dissociation, and emptiness all are significantly associated with the intrapersonal positive reinforcement function of NSSI (i.e., NSSI for feeling generation) but are not associated with the other 3 previously identified functions of NSSI. These results provide preliminary information about how NSSI may arise in some cases and suggest that treatment components aimed at teaching noninjurious strategies for generating positive feelings/affect may decrease the occurrence of NSSI.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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