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Looking through dark lenses: How those with a history of nonsuicidal self-injury experience positive emotional situations

  • Author(s): Davis, Tchiki
  • Advisor(s): Mauss, Iris
  • et al.
Abstract

Theories suggest that nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is strongly related to heightened negative emotion. However, it is unclear when and why those who engage in NSSI experience heightened negative emotion. In a series of studies, I examined whether individuals with a history of NSSI (versus controls) experience greater negative emotion in response to positive (but not negative) contexts. Results showed that in community, clinical, and college samples, after controlling for depression and anxiety, those with a history of NSSI (versus controls) do not experience heightened negative emotions in negative situations (Studies 1, 2, and 4). However, they consistently experience heightened negative emotions in positive situations (Studies 1-5) even when controlling for depression and anxiety symptoms (Studies 2-4). Heightened negative emotion persists across both high and low-arousal positive situations (Studies 3-4). Furthermore, the association between NSSI and negative emotion in positive situations is mediated by negative self-beliefs (Studies 5 and 6). However, experimentally manipulating negative self-beliefs was not shown to reduce negative self-beliefs or negative emotion in positive situations (Study 6). These findings suggest that NSSI is associated with heightened negative emotion in positive, but not negative, situations and that heightened negative self-beliefs contribute to these negative emotions. However, interventions that directly target negative self-beliefs may not be the most effective way to reduce negative emotions in NSSI.

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