Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) disorder: A preliminary study

Edward A. Selby, Theodore W. Bender, Kathryn H. Gordon, Matthew K. Nock, Thomas E. Joiner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

191 Scopus citations


Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) disorder has been suggested for inclusion into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, in preparation), yet there is concern that NSSI is primarily a function of high borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms. The purpose of this study was to examine the characteristics of NSSI disorder and compare it to BPD and other DSM Axis I diagnoses commonly seen in clinical practice to aid in the determination of whether NSSI should be considered a separate, valid diagnostic entity. Chart data were analyzed from the screening, intake, and termination information of 571 treatment-seeking patients in a general practice clinic. Patients were classified into one of three groups: NSSI without BPD, BPD (with and without NSSI) or a comparison condition for those who did not meet criteria for the first 2 groups. Participants in these 3 groups were compared on functioning at intake, psychopathology, and diagnostic co-occurrence. Results indicated important group differences regarding diagnostic co-occurrence rates, patient history of associated features, and impairment at intake. The NSSI group displayed similar levels of functional impairment as the BPD group, including on indices of suicidality. The BPD group reported increased experiences with abuse and fewer men relative to the NSSI group. Most in the NSSI group did not exhibit subthreshold BPD symptoms or personality disorder not otherwise specified. In conclusion, a potential NSSI disorder may be characterized by high levels of depressive symptoms, anxiety, suicidality, and low functioning relative to other Axis I diagnoses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-175
Number of pages9
JournalPersonality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • DSM-5
  • Self-injury
  • borderline personality disorder
  • self-harm


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