Investigating the DSM-5 criteria for non-suicidal self-injury disorder in a community sample of adolescents
Buelens, T., Luyckx, K., Kiekens, G., Gandhi, A., Muehlenkamp, J.J., & Claes, L.
Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a serious public health concern in adolescents. In 2013, DSM-5 recognized NSSI as a distinct clinical phenomenon and made a call for more systematic research by including Non-Suicidal Self-Injury-Disorder (NSSI-D) as a condition requiring further research. Yet, few studies have examined the prevalence of NSSI-D in adolescents using the exact DSM-5 criteria. Additionally, the few studies available criticised several of the proposed diagnostic criteria and pointed out that more research is needed.
Therefore, we examined prevalence rates of NSSI-D and investigated the four most controversial criteria (i.e., criteria A, B/C, and E) in a large community sample of adolescents (N = 2,130; 54% female; Mage = 15, SD = 1.81).
Our results show an overall NSSI-D prevalence rate of 7.6%, with significantly more girls (11.7%) than boys (2.9%) meeting the diagnosis. The prevalence of NSSI-D dropped to 5.5% when an alternative criterion A (i.e., ≥10 days of NSSI in the past year) was implemented. In our sample, 87% and 99% of adolescents with lifetime NSSI met criteria B and C, which clearly questions the clinical utility of these criteria for the DSM-5 diagnosis of NSSI-D. Importantly, however, although criterion E received relatively low endorsement, it significantly distinguished adolescents with and without NSSI-D from one another.
Limitations and conclusion
Although our conclusions are restricted by the cross-sectional nature of our study, these findings show that NSSI-D is common in community adolescents and offer new insights in the endorsement and clinical utility of specific NSSI-D criteria.