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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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3. No reappraisal, please: Emotion regulation strategy preferences in people who engage in self-injury

What emotion regulation strategies do people who engage in self-injury select to make themselves feel better? Using a novel behavioral task in a lab-based study, we examined emotion regulation choices in individuals with non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI; N = 35), individuals with indirect self-injury (e.g., disordered eating, substance abuse; N = 50) and controls (N = 50). Following a negative mood induction, participants were asked to select one of six strategies to repair their mood. These strategies varied in valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral; e.g., eating a snack, being exposed to physical pain, or completing a word activity) and type (cognitive or behavioral; e.g., reappraising versus eating a snack). Findings revealed that individuals with NSSI were significantly more likely to choose behavioral (e.g., pain or food) rather than cognitive strategies compared to controls. In addition, across all participants, higher increases in negative mood following the mood induction predicted selection of a more negative method of mood repair (i.e., pain or rumination). Although reappraisal is an effective emotion regulation strategy, it does not appear to be a preferred strategy for people with NSSI, or when people experience acute increases in negative affect. These findings have potential implications with respect to intervention approaches.

Chelsea Boccagno
Harvard University

Jill Hooley
Harvard University


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