Exploring the role of anger in nonsuicidal self-injury in veterans.
Up to 14% of veterans engage in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) in their lifetime and this behavior is a relatively strong predictor of suicidal behavior compared to other identified risk factors. Further, NSSI is a clinically relevant behavior in its own right; it is associated with more severe psychopathology as well as bodily harm that sometimes requires medical intervention. Therefore, a better understanding of NSSI may help inform suicide prevention efforts as well as mental healthcare strategies for veterans. Anger may be relevant to understanding NSSI in veterans. Over 60% of veterans report difficulties managing anger and this emotion is strongly associated with engagement in NSSI. However, no research has explored the extent to which anger is present prior to NSSI or whether anger is associated with specific NSSI methods or functions in veterans. The purpose of this study was to explore whether anger was associated with engagement in specific NSSI methods, and whether anger uniquely predicted any functions of NSSI while controlling for the presence of other basic negative emotions (fear and sadness). An existing dataset of 61 veterans who reported engaging in NSSI in the past year was analyzed. Results indicated anger was the most common emotional antecedent to NSSI. Further, anger was associated with several methods of NSSI including burning oneself with a cigarette, carving pictures, designs or other marks into skin, sticking sharp objects into skin, severely scratching oneself, head banging, punching oneself, and punching walls or objects. Finally, when controlling for the presence of other negative emotions, anger was associated with engaging in NSSI to relieve tension, stop feeling numb, communicate with others, feel alive, get help from others, and prove to oneself how bad things are. These results highlight the importance of assessing and treating dysregulated anger in veterans who engage in self-harming behavior.
Cassiello-Robbins, C; Dillon, KH; Blalock, DV; Calhoun, PS; Beckham, JC; Kimbrel, NA
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