Exploring the relationship between experiential avoidance, coping functions and the recency and frequency of self-harm
Schmahl, Christian and Nielsen, Emma and Sayal, Kapil and Townsend, Ellen (2016) Exploring the relationship between experiential avoidance, coping functions and the recency and frequency of self-harm. PLoS ONE, 11 (7). e0159854. ISSN 1932-6203
This study investigated the relationship between experiential avoidance, coping and the recency and frequency of self-harm, in a community sample (N = 1332, aged 16–69 years). Participants completed online, self-report measures assessing self-harm, momentary affect, experiential avoidance and coping in response to a recent stressor. Participants who had self-harmed reported significantly higher levels of experiential avoidance and avoidance coping, as well as lower levels of approach, reappraisal and emotional regulation coping, than those with no self-harm history. Moreover, more recent self-harm was associated with lower endorsement of approach, reappraisal and emotion regulation coping, and also higher levels of both avoidance coping and experiential avoidance. Higher experiential avoidance and avoidance coping also predicted increased lifetime frequency of self-harm. Conversely, increased approach and reappraisal coping were associated with a decreased likelihood of high frequency self-harm. Although some of the effects were small, particularly in relation to lifetime frequency of self-harm, overall our results suggest that experiential avoidance tendency may be an important psychological factor underpinning self-harm, regardless of suicidal intent (e.g. including mixed intent, suicidal intent, ambivalence), which is not accounted for in existing models of self-harm.
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