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Study Examines Intentional Self-Injury in Women with Borderline Personality Disorder

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Self-injury studyPeople with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) frequently engage in self-harmful behaviors, such as cutting and burning. A recent study by researchers at the University of Washington and Alliant International University aimed to find out what triggers these self-harmful behaviors, as well as suicide attempts.

The study examined 99 women with Borderline Personality Disorder who were part of a study examining the effectiveness of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). The women were currently suicidal, meaning they made at least one suicide attempt in the past year and engaged in at least one self-harmful act in the previous eight weeks. When asked about their most recent intentional act of self-injury, 32 of the acts qualified as non-suicidal self-injury and 67 were suicide attempts.

Self-Harm Triggers for Women with BPD

The researchers wanted to find out what triggered these acts in women with Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as the consequences. Here is what they determined:

  • People who made suicide attempts were most often triggered by events related to interpersonal relationships or negative emotions.
  • Suicide attempts led to more interpersonal influence and increased feelings of self-hatred and shame, as well as feeling worse about themselves.

The researchers also determined that suicide attempts were more frequently associated with the following:

  • Arguments and conflicts with others
  • Someone being angry, criticizing, or putting them down
  • Someone rejecting them
  • Losing someone important

When distinguishing between suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-injury, women with Borderline Personality Disorder were just as likely to engage in either act when any of the following occurred:

  • Unsuccessfully trying to spend time with someone
  • Someone letting them down or breaking a promise
  • Someone being disappointed with them

“Intentional self-injury, with or without intent to die, is a major and costly health problem as well as the single best predictor of death by suicide,” wrote the researchers. “The findings highlight the increased importance of difficulties in interpersonal relationship in suicide attempts compared to non-suicidal self-injury, with implications for both identifying suicide risk in therapy as well as intervening in potential maintaining factors.”

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