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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


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
Pages (from-to)302-320
Number of pages19
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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


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