The Functions of Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

Taylor, Peter James, Dhingra, Katie, Peel-Wainwright, Kelly-Marie and Gardner, Kathryn Jane orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3904-1638 (2023) The Functions of Nonsuicidal Self-Injury. In: The Oxford Handbook of Nonsuicidal Self-Injury. Oxford University Press (OUP), C10S1-C10P122. ISBN 9780197611272

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This chapter explores the extant research concerning the functions of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), highlighting the key implications of this work for future research, clinical practice, and prevention. It uses the term “function” to refer to either the self-reported reasons for engaging in NSSI behaviors, or the expected or actual consequences of the behaviors. Many of the functions of NSSI are considered intrapersonal (sometimes called autonomic), focusing on changing or affecting a person’s internal states in some way. These include self-injury as a form of affect regulation, helping the person to cope with or reduce emotional distress. In addition to intrapersonal functions, many reported functions of NSSI are interpersonal in nature, involving other people. These include NSSI providing a means to express or communicate the level of distress one is experiencing, or as a way of seeking help from others. It has also been noted that NSSI may act as a means of hurting others. The chapter then outlines implications for future research and clinical practice based on what is known so far about the functions of NSSI.

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