Frequency of nonsuicidal self-injury is associated with impulsive decision-making during criticism
Allen, K.J.D., Fox, K.R., Schatten, H.T., & Hooley, J.M.
Research indicates that nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is associated with impulsive traits, but not impulsive behavior on laboratory tasks, even in the context of negative mood. However, previous studies may not have induced forms of negative affect most relevant to NSSI. For example, evidence implicates both self-criticism and feeling criticized by others in NSSI engagement. We conducted two studies examining whether negative mood related to criticism increases impulsive decision-making among individuals with NSSI histories, using a gambling task embedded with auditory critical comments; participants imagined loved ones saying these comments to them. Study 1 evaluated community adults with (n = 33) and without (n = 31) NSSI histories. Despite no group differences in task performance, we found an association between past-year NSSI frequency and more impulsive choices during criticism. This was confirmed in Study 2 using a separate sample of adults (n = 69) with more frequent and recent NSSI. In regression models including self-criticism and depressive symptoms, only task performance (i.e., decision-making while receiving critical feedback) predicted NSSI frequency across multiple measurement periods. These studies suggest that more frequent and recent NSSI is associated with neurocognitive impulsivity, specifically in negative emotional contexts involving actual or imagined criticism in close relationships.