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Over the past several years there has been considerable interest in the relation between emotion dysregulation and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), particularly given that rates of NSSI have been increasing and NSSI is a critical risk factor for suicidal behavior. To date, however, no synthesis of empirical findings exists.
The present study presents a comprehensive meta-analytic review of the literature on the association between NSSI and emotion dysregulation. A total of 48 publications, including 49 independent samples, were included in this analysis.
Overall, a significant association was found between emotion dysregulation and NSSI (pooled OR = 3.03 [95% CI = 2.56–3.59]). This association was reduced but remained significant (OR = 2.40 [95% CI = 2.01–2.86]) after adjustment for publication bias. Emotion dysregulation subscales most strongly associated with NSSI included limited access to regulation strategies, non-acceptance of emotional responses, impulse control difficulties, and difficulties engaging goal-directed behavior. Lack of emotional awareness/clarity and cognitive aspects of dysregulation yielded weaker, yet significant, positive associations with NSSI.
Findings support the notion that greater emotion dysregulation is associated with higher risk for NSSI among individuals across settings, regardless of age or sex. Furthermore, findings reveal facets of dysregulation that may have unique implications for NSSI. This meta-analysis highlights the importance of better understanding emotion dysregulation as a treatment target for preventing NSSI.
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