Out of the blue: Untangling the association between impulsivity and planning in self-harm
AuthorMorriss, Richard K.
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AbstractBACKGROUND: Planned and unplanned acts of self-harm may have distinct clinical and psychological correlates. Trait impulsivity is one factor that might be expected to determine whether self-harm is planned. Research so far has focussed on suicide attempts and little is known about how individuals engaging in planned and unplanned acts of self-harm differ. The aim of the current study was to examine how individuals who report planned self-harm, unplanned self-harm, and no self-harm differ in terms of impulsivity and affective symptoms (depression, anxiety, and activated mood).
METHOD: An online survey of University students (n = 1350) was undertaken including measures of impulsivity, affective symptoms and self-harm. Analyses made use of a multinomial logistic regression model with affective and cognitive forms of impulsivity estimated as latent variables.
RESULTS: Trait affective impulsivity, but not cognitive, was a general risk factor for whether self-harm occurred. There was no evidence of differences between planned and unplanned self-harm. Affective symptoms of depression and anxiety mediated the relationship between affective impulsivity and self-harm.
LIMITATIONS: The study was cross-sectional, relied on a student sample which may not generalise to other populations.
CONCLUSIONS: Trait affective impulsivity is associated with self-harm but it appears to be mediated by depression and anxiety symptoms. The exact relationships between trait affective impulsivity, depression, anxiety and self-harm require further longitudinal research in clinical populations but might lead to improved risk assessment and new therapeutic approaches to self-harm.Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.