Before, During, and After Self Injury: The Practice Patterns of Nonsuicidal Self Injury

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Little is currently known about the repetitive behaviors that take place before, during, and after nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). These practice patterns surrounding repetitive self-injury may be part of a habituation process in NSSI. Congruent with the opponent process theory (OPT), the mechanisms through which NSSI is reinforced may include preparation, engagement, and follow-up practice patterns to achieve the desired effect. This may result in increased habituation leading to a change in method and resulting NSSI severity. College students with a history of NSSI (N = 80) completed questionnaires, including an instrument to assess practice patterns around NSSI. High levels of NSSI practice patterns were positively related to various NSSI characteristics and clinical correlates, suggesting higher levels of NSSI severity. Further, NSSI versatility partially explained the relationship between NSSI practice patterns and habituation. Consistent with OPT, practice patterns associated with repetitive NSSI may lead an individual to change methods, fostering habituation to self-injury.

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