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Is self-disgust the emotional trigger that leads to self-harm?

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firemonkee57

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To help people who perform non-lethal self-harm we need a better understanding of the thoughts and feelings that contribute to them resorting to this behaviour. Risk factors are already known, including depression and a history of sexual abuse. However, Noelle Smith and her colleagues wondered if these factors increase the risk of self-harm because they lead people to experience self-disgust. Viewed this way, the researchers believe "self-disgust may serve as an emotional trigger" for self-harm.

Over five hundred undergrads, men and women, answered questions about whether they'd ever intentionally harmed themselves; when they'd last performed such an act; their depression symptoms; any history of physical or sexual abuse; their anxiety; and crucially, their feelings of self-disgust, as measured by 18 items, such as "I find myself repulsive".

Consistent with the researchers' predictions, the more self-disgust a student reported, the greater the likelihood that they had previously performed self-harm (statistically speaking, a one standard deviation increase in self-disgust was associated with a two-fold increase in the odds of reporting self-harm).

Levels of self-disgust were the highest in those students who said they'd performed self-harm in the last year. These were also the same students who tended to report depression symptoms and a history of physical or sexual abuse. It's notable though, that depression was no longer associated with self-harm once self-disgust was taken into account, suggesting that self-disgust is the key mediating factor.

BPS Research Digest: Is self-disgust the emotional trigger that leads to self-harm?
 
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SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

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I think it can be a trigger, but not necessarily the only trigger.
I guess it's understandable really that self-disgust could play a part in people's self-harm, but i'm thinking back to when i've self-harmed in the past and don't think self-disgust was always reason for it.
 
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firemonkee57

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For me it was a release from intolerable emotions. I was lucky to largely grow out of it in the way I used , though some would say self harm stretches far beyond that.
 
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prairiechick

prairiechick

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For me, different things at different times have triggered self harm. Sometimes it is acting out the pain I feel on the inside. If I hurt on the outside then I don't have to feel the pain on the inside. It's also a perverse way of taking care of myself, because I am forced to take care of my wounds so they won't get infected. Sometimes I have self harmed because I hate myself and feel I deserve to be punished. Sometimes the self harm is, as firemonkee said, a release from intolerable emotions. So there are at least 4 reasons why I have self harmed.
 
Sparklypurplepaws

Sparklypurplepaws

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I agree, for me it's a variety of reasons - but usually due to intolerable emotions, and not necessarily negative emotions - an example is that one of my very worst s/h efforts occurred when I got offered my dream job - I was in college at the time and to land a lecturing job at 21 is a huge deal! I was over the moon - couldn't belive it, but all those emotions lead to s/h!!!
 
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