The Dynamics of Pain During Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

Edward A. Selby, Amy Kranzler, Janne Lindqvist, Kara B. Fehling, Julia Brillante, Fengpeng Yuan, Xianyi Gao, Alec L. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The experience of pain during nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) remains enigmatic. Ultimately, there is a dearth of evidence regarding whether pain is actually experienced during NSSI behavior and, if it is, to what extent that pain offsets following cessation of the NSSI episode. Using a smartphone app to collect information on self-injury episodes reported by adolescents and young adults in their daily lives, we found that across 143 NSSI episodes comprising 442 NSSI behaviors, most participants reported feeling significant and substantial pain onset during most NSSI episodes. A small effect was established for pain offset, with pain diminishing somewhat for most at NSSI completion. Furthermore, those who had higher negative emotion at the start of NSSI episodes but experienced less pain onset reported more NSSI behaviors during such episodes. The evidence supports a dynamic experience of pain during self-injury that can vary between people and episodes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-320
Number of pages19
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • adolescent
  • emotion regulation
  • pain
  • self-harm
  • self-injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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