Following are some academic references on self-injury. These are far more
clinical than the rest of the resources that will appear on this page when it
is through. But if you are wondering what the psychiatrists are saying about
self-injury these days, these journal articles reveal a lot. This list is just
a small sampling; more references can be obtained from the National
Library of Medicineís website. I omitted articles dealing with self-injury
in the mentally disabled, focusing instead on self-injury in the general population.
Chapman AL, Gratz KL, Brown MZ. Solving the puzzle of deliberate self-harm:
The experiential avoidance model. Behav Res Ther 2006;44:371-94.
Despite increasing attention to the phenomenon of deliberate self-harm (DSH), the literature currently lacks a unifying, evidence-based, theoretical framework within which to understand the factors that control this behavior. The purpose of the present paper is to outline such a framework-the Experiential Avoidance Model (EAM) of DSH. The EAM poses that DSH is primarily maintained by negative reinforcement in the form of escape from, or avoidance of, unwanted emotional experiences. Literature on factors that may lead to experiential avoidance is reviewed, along with the mounting empirical evidence that DSH functions to help the individual escape from unwanted emotional experiences. The EAM integrates a variety of research on emotions, experiential avoidance, and DSH within a clinically useful framework that sparks novel research directions.
Lovell A. Danielís story: self-injury and the case study as method. Br J
Nurs 2006 Feb 9-22;15:166-70.
This article explores the value of case study methodology as a means of investigating the relationship between people with learning disabilities and self-injury. One life story might appear to be of limited value in this regard; however, it is argued that it might not only be of use in demonstrating the development of an isolated self-injuring career, but there may also be insights into its entrenchment in the lives of others. The telling of one story might serve as a filter, through which the interventions of medication, mechanical restraint and behaviourism can be observed over time. Furthermore, studying one life in some detail might be used to illustrate broader concerns about the context of the transition from institutional to community care. The restrictions of such an approach are acknowledged, particularly in the telling of a story where the main characterís words cannot be heard, but maybe that is also the point of undertaking research about those at the margins of society.
Csorba J, Szelesne EF, Steiner P, et al. [Symptom specificity of adolescents
with self-injurious actions.] Psychiatr Hung 2005;20:456-462. [Article in Hungarian]
As an introductory part of the paper, authors give a short overview of existing results in te literature related to self-injurious behaviour and adolescentsí deliberate self-harm. In their own random sample study, authors organized a self-report screen (provincial town, 3 educational facilities, 470 pupils aged between 14 and 18 years) by means of the translated version of Ottawa Self Injury Inventory (OSI) used widely in community-based studies in Canada. The Beck Depression Inventory was introduced to measure the key symptoms of depression among youngsters. 26 youngsters were found to have had at least one self-injurious action in their life-time. The authors describe the characteristics of these subjects on the basis of symptom occurrence statistics. Although the depressive symptoms have an expected correlation with the self-injurious ideas, depression does not seem to have the same relationships with the actual self-harm action. The authors attempt to give an explanation of this contradiction.
Woldorf GM. Clinical implications of the paradox of deliberate self-injury.
J Spec Pediatr Nurs 2005;10:196-200. No abstract available.
Reece J. The language of cutting: Initial reflections on a study of the
experiences of self-injury in a group of women and nurses. Issues Ment Health
Non-suicidal self-injury is a distressing act, which can arouse dissent and negative comment in service users and providers. The purpose of the study was to describe how women who self-injure and nurses assign meaning to shared discourses about self-injury. The wider study is framed in a grounded theory methodology. Fourteen qualified nurses and 11 women who have self-injured were interviewed using unstructured and initially open-ended interviews, lasting 45-90 minutes. Initially a thematic analysis was used to code data. In this report, three of the early themes are reported with some comparative interpretations. Nurses lack understanding of the meanings of cutting behaviour. A common language is needed if nurses are to be effective in helping women who have self-injured to express distress in less damaging ways.
Muehlenkamp JJ. Self-injurious behavior as a separate clinical syndrome.
Am J Orthopsychiatry 2005;75:324-33.
The field of clinical psychology may benefit from adopting a deliberate self-injury syndrome as a distinct disorder for representation in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The phenomenological and empirical data supporting a deliberate self-injury syndrome are reviewed, and arguments for and against the adoption of a distinct syndrome are explored.
Harriss L, Hawton K, Zahl D. Value of measuring suicidal intent in the
assessment of people attending hospital following self-poisoning or self-injury.
Br J Psychiatry. 2005;186:60-6.
BACKGROUND: Self-harm is associated with a high risk of suicide. It is unclear whether suicidal intent at the time of self-harm is a risk factor for future suicidal behaviour. AIMS: To investigate the relationship between suicidal intent and patient characteristics, repetition of self-harm, and suicide. METHOD: Clinical and demographic data on 4415 patients presenting to hospital following self-harm between 1993 and 2000 were analysed. Suicidal intent was measured using the Beck Suicide Intent Scale (SIS). Follow-up information on repetition of self-harm and suicide was investigated for 2489 patients presenting between 1993 and 1997. RESULTS: Suicidal intent at the time of self-harm was associated with risk of subsequent suicide, especially within the first year and among female patients. Suicide was more strongly associated with scores on the circumstances section of the SIS than the self-report section. The association between repetition of self-harm and SIS scores was different for male and female patients. CONCLUSIONS: The measurement of suicidal intent in the assessment of self-harm patients is beneficial for the evaluation of future suicide risk. A shortened measuring scale might be useful in clinical practice.
Rashid A, Brennen MD. Psychiatric assessment of patients with self-inflicted
lacerations to the wrist and forearm admitted to a nonpsychiatric ward: The
experience of a regional plastic surgery unit. Br J Plast Surg 2005.
In 1984, the Department of Health (DoH) recommended that all patients with deliberate self-harm (DSH) must have a mental assessment before discharge. DSH patients, especially those with lacerations to wrist and forearm, are a regular source of admission to plastic surgery units. In Northern Ireland, the regional plastic surgery service is provided at the Ulster Hospital, which does not have an on-site psychiatric department. Consequently, it was often difficult to arrange a psychiatrist assessment for these patients on the ward even when the assessment was required urgently. The objective of this study was to develop and validate a protocol that would ensure that these patients were assessed and followed up for their mental health as recommended by the DoH. In the absence of clear guidelines from the DoH and utilising the existing arrangement between Accident and Emergency (A&E) and the psychiatric services, all referring A&E departments were instructed at the time of referring patients with DSH to wrist and forearm to arrange a psychiatric examination before transferring the patient to the plastic surgery unit. Data were collected retrospectively (August 2002-October 2002) and prospectively (November 2002-October 2003) and comprised demographic features, previous history of self-harm, conduct of the patient in A&E and the ward, length of stay in the hospital and various aspects of psychiatric assessment and follow-up. In total, 42 referrals were made during the period studied. The average age was 28 years with a male to female ratio of 2:1. The average hospital stay was two days. Despite difficulties, our practice was found effective in ensuring psychiatry assessment and follow-up without risking the patientís physical health. The study also highlighted the need for collaboration between plastic surgeons and psychiatrists to improve services in regards to DSH patients.
Adams J, Rodham K, Gavin J. Investigating the self in deliberate self-harm.
Qual Health Res 2005;15:1293-309.
In this study, the authors explored how a group of young people aged 16 to 26 years (who identified themselves as having engaged in deliberate self-harm) made sense of the self by conducting two online focus groups and four e-mail interviews. They analyzed data using interpretive phenomenological analysis. The concept of validation was the primary means of making sense of the self and concerned the desire to be considered legitimate and of worth. This desire was clearly evident across three realms of conflict: (a) the intrinsic or extrinsic self, which marked the distinction between objective fact and subjective opinion; (b) the accepted or denied self; and (c) the notion of normality. It is possible that having oneís denied self validated online might lead to an exacerbation of an individualís self-harming behavior. Further work is needed to explore the effects of online discussion forums on such taboo forms of behavior.
Lamprecht HC, Pakrasi S, Gash A, Swann AG. Deliberate self-harm in older
people revisited. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2005;20:1090-6.
BACKGROUND: Deliberate self harm (DSH) in later life is under researched and is believed to be related to both mental illness and suicide. AIMS: The aim of the study was to examine deliberate self-harm (DSH) in older people presenting to acute hospital services over three years. METHOD: This was a retrospective observational study. We reviewed 97 episodes of DSH involving 82 patients aged 65 and over referred to the Liaison Psychiatric Service of the Tees and North East Yorkshire NHS Trust South Locality from 2000 to 2002. RESULTS: There was a year on year increase in the number of older people presenting with DSH, especially in men. Twenty-one percent of older men had no discernible psychiatric diagnosis. There were a small number of people who repeated DSH within a year and males were as likely to be repeaters as females. Twenty-three percent of all patients saw a General Practitioner (GP) in the 7 days before the episode of DSH and this increased to 58% in the 4 weeks preceding the episode of DSH. More males (56%) than females (26%) who presented with DSH were married. The most common method of DSH (93%) was medication overdose of which 66% used prescribed medication. There was no difference in the methods used to self-harm between men or women. CONCLUSION: DSH in the elderly may start to mirror some of the characteristics seen in younger adults with DSH. While the numbers of DSH per year are small among the elderly compared to younger adults, the observations suggest an increase in DSH in men. Marriage may no longer be a protective factor in prevention of DSH among older men. Longer-term observational studies of DSH in older people are required to confirm these changing patterns. GPs may have an important role to play in prevention of DSH in later life.
Haavisto A, Sourander A, Multimaki P, et al. Factors associated with ideation
and acts of deliberate self-harm among 18-year-old boys. A prospective 10-year
follow-up study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2005;40:912-21.
BACKGROUND: The aims of the study were: (1) to identify the prevalence of ideation and acts of deliberate self-harm in 18-year-old boys; (2) to report the use of mental health services among these boys; (3) to identify risk factors assessed at age 8 and (4) to identify associated cross-sectional factors at age 18 of self-reported ideation and acts of deliberate self-harm. METHODS: The participants in this community-based 10-year follow-up study consisted of 2,348 boys born during 1981. At baseline, three informant sources were used: parents, teachers and the children themselves. The questionnaires used were the Rutter Parents Scale, the Rutter Teacher Scale and the Childrenís Depressive Inventory. At follow-up, boys' psychopathology, adaptive functioning and substance use were studied using the Young Adult Self-Report questionnaire. Further questions about demographic factors and life events were added at both stages. RESULTS: The prevalence of ideation of deliberate self-harm was 4.0%, and of acts 2.2%, during the preceding 6 months. Of the subjects who reported ideation, 9.7%, and of those who reported acts, 16.0%, had used mental health services during the previous year. Self-reported depressive symptoms at age 8 predicted ideation and acts of deliberate self-harm 10 years later. Suicidal boysí problems in many life areas were linked with suicidal tendency through psychiatric symptoms, especially anxious/depressed symptoms and aggressive behaviour. CONCLUSIONS: The connection between self-reported depressive symptoms at age 8 and ideation and acts of deliberate self-harm at age 18 is a good reason to already pay special attention to childrenís own intimations of distress in elementary school. It is likely that an effective way to prevent suicidality among adolescents is to search for and treat psychiatric problems among young people. Self-reported screening questionnaires used, e.g. in school healthcare, may provide an opportunity to recognize these problems.
Skegg K. Self-harm. Lancet. 2005;366:1471-83.
The term self-harm is commonly used to describe a wide range of behaviours and intentions including attempted hanging, impulsive self-poisoning, and superficial cutting in response to intolerable tension. As with suicide, rates of self-harm vary greatly between countries. 5-9% of adolescents in western countries report having self-harmed within the previous year. Risk factors include socioeconomic disadvantage, and psychiatric illness--particularly depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. Cultural aspects of some societies may protect against suicide and self-harm and explain some of the international variation in rates of these events. Risk of repetition of self-harm and of later suicide is high. More than 5% of people who have been seen at a hospital after self-harm will have committed suicide within 9 years. Assessment after self-harm includes careful consideration of the patientís intent and beliefs about the lethality of the method used. Strong suicidal intent, high lethality, precautions against being discovered, and psychiatric illness are indicators of high suicide risk. Management after self-harm includes forming a trusting relationship with the patient, jointly identifying problems, ensuring support is available in a crisis, and treating psychiatric illness vigorously. Family and friends may also provide support. Large-scale studies of treatments for specific subgroups of people who self-harm might help to identify more effective treatments than are currently available. Although risk factors for self-harm are well established, aspects that protect people from engaging in self-harm need to be further explored.
Parker G, Malhi G, Mitchell P, et al. Self-harming in depressed patients:
Pattern analysis. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2005;39:899-906.
OBJECTIVE: As deliberate self-harm (DSH) is a common concomitant of depressive disorders, we undertook a study examining the relevance of possible determinants and correlates of DSH. METHOD: Three separate samples of depressed outpatients were studied to determine consistency of identified factors across samples, with principal analyses involving gender, age and diagnosis-matched DSH and non-DSH subjects. RESULTS: Across the samples, some 20% of subjects admitted to episodes of DSH. Women reported higher rates and there was a consistent trend for higher rates in bipolar patients. Univariate analyses examined the relevance of several sociodemographic variables, illicit drug and alcohol use, past deprivational and abusive experiences, past suicidal attempts and disordered personality functioning. Multivariate analyses consistently identified previous suicide attempts and high acting out behaviours across the three samples, suggesting the relevance of an externalizing response to stress and poor impulse control. CONCLUSIONS: Results assist the identification and management of depressed patients who are at greater risk of DSH behaviours.
Konradsen F, Hoek W, Peiris P. Reaching for the bottle of pesticideóA cry
for help. Self-inflicted poisonings in Sri Lanka. Soc Sci Med 2006;62:1710-9.
This long-term study in Sri Lanka explored the complexities behind self-inflicted pesticide poisonings by 166 Sri Lankans. Using or threatening to use pesticides for self-harm has become a response to stressful events and a powerful message towards a specific individual, or to the outside world in general, conveying misgiving, anger, sadness, hopelessness, frustration, or simply a way to manipulate a situation to oneís own advantage. The effects of alcohol misuse are especially important in understanding self-harm at the community level in terms of the impact they have on the domestic environment. Also, issues around "love affairs," arranged marriages and domestic physical, sexual or psychological abuse in the domestic environment are referred to by many self-harmers or their relatives as a reason for ingesting poison. Clearly, easy access to lethal pesticides by impulsive individuals often living under economically or psychosocially stressful conditions, combined with insufficient treatment facilities and limited outreach programs, can be a deadly blend. A strategy aimed at reducing the availability of the most toxic pesticides and improving case management should be implemented, as it is likely to reduce death from pesticides although unlikely to impact on the number of episodes. Support to families plagued by domestic violence and male alcohol misuse is essential to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable and to reduce the number of self-harm episodes in the long-term.
Evans E, Hawton K, Rodham K. In what ways are adolescents who engage in
self-harm or experience thoughts of self-harm different in terms of help-seeking,
communication and coping strategies? J Adolesc 2005;28:573-87.
The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether adolescents who deliberately harmed themselves or had thoughts of self-harm differed from other adolescents in terms of help-seeking, communication and coping strategies. The participants were 6020 15-16 year-old school pupils who were surveyed using an anonymous self-report questionnaire. Adolescents with one or more episodes of deliberate self-harm (DSH) in the previous year were more likely to identify themselves as having serious problems than other adolescents. However, a substantial proportion of adolescents with either DSH or thoughts of self-harm did not identify themselves as having serious problems. Adolescents with DSH were most likely to feel the need for help but not try to get any; they were less able to talk to family members and teachers and had fewer categories of people who they were able to talk to. Like other adolescents, those with DSH or thoughts of self-harm were more likely to seek and receive help from their friends than from other sources. They differed from other adolescents in terms of coping strategies they reported employing when faced with difficulties, showing less focus on problems and more avoidant behaviours. The findings have important implications for preventive strategies, including educational programmes on emotional health and coping, and for the clinical care of adolescents identified as at risk or having self-harmed.
Dennis M, Wakefield P, Molloy C, et al. Self-harm in older people with depression:
Comparison of social factors, life events and symptoms. Br J Psychiatry 2005;186:538-9.
Studying non-fatal self-harm in older adults may provide insight into suicidal behaviour in this age group. The objectives of the study were to determine clinical factors that might help to differentiate those older adults with depression who are most at risk of self-harm and suicide. We examined social factors, life events, hopelessness and other depression symptoms in a group of 48 older people with depression referred following an episode of self-harm compared with 50 similarly aged people with depression who had no history of self-harm. The groups were similar in many respects, although those in the self-harm group were more likely to have a poorly integrated social network and were more hopeless.
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