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Associations between self-harm and distinct types of impulsivity

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Chamberlain, SR 
Redden, SA 
Grant, JE 


OBJECTIVE: There is an ongoing debate regarding how self-harm should be classified. The aim of this study was to characterize associations between self-harm and impulsivity.

METHOD: Total 333 adults (mean [SD] age 22.6 (3.6) years, 61% male) were recruited from the general community. History of self-harm was quantified using the Self-Harm Inventory (SHI), which asks about 22 self-harm behaviors. Principal components analysis was used to identify latent dimensions of self-harming behaviors. Relationships between self-harm dimensions and other measures were characterized using ordinary least squares regression.

RESULTS: Principal Components Analysis yielded a three factor solution, corresponding to self-injurious self-harm (e.g. cutting, overdoses, burning), interpersonal related self-harm (e.g. engaging in emotionally or sexually abusive relationships), and reckless self-harm (e.g. losing one's job deliberately, driving recklessly, abusing alcohol). Regression modelling showed that all three dimensions of self-harm were associated with lower quality of life.

CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests the existence of three distinct subtypes or 'latent factors' of self-harm: all three appear clinically important in that they are linked with worse quality of life. Clinicians should screen for impulse control disorders in people with self-harm, especially when it is self-injurious or involves interpersonal harm.



Cognition, Impulsive, Impulsivity, Suicidality

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Psychiatry Research

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Wellcome Trust (110049/Z/15/Z)
This research was supported by a grant from the National Center for Responsible Gaming to Dr. Grant, by a grant from the Academy of Medical Sciences to Dr. Chamberlain, and by a Welcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellowship to Dr. Chamberlain (Reference 110049/Z/15/Z).