Non-Suicidal Self-Injurious Behavior: The Role of Shame, Guilt, Anxiety and Depression




VanDerhei, Susan E.

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Previous research has identified strong links between non-suicidal self-injurious behavior (NSSIB) and emotional vulnerabilities such as anxiety and depression. However, to date no studies have been published that examined the potential role of moral emotions such as shame and guilt on the presentation of NSSIB. This study examined the relationship of shame and guilt with NSSIB and the extent to which they may affect anxiety and depression as predictors of NSSIB (i.e., the presence of NSSIB and estimated daily rate of NSSIB). The participants were 378 university undergraduate students, who were predominantly female (71.2%), between 18 to 51 years old (M = 20.89, SD = 4.77). Participants completed the Inventory of Statements about Self-Injury (ISAS; Klonsky & Olino, 2008), the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI; Beck & Steer, 1990), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II; Beck, Steer & Brown, 1996), and the Test of Self- Conscious Affect (TOSCA-3; Tangney, Dearing, Wagner, & Gramzow, 2000). Emotion dysregulation (defined as combined anxiety and depression scores), and shame were positively related to the presence of NSSIB; guilt was negatively related to the presence of NSSIB. There was no interaction between emotion dysreglation and shame, nor between emotional dysregulation and guilt when predicting the presence of NSSIB. However, guilt and emotion dysregulation did interact to predict the daily rate of NSSIB, such that those participants with lower guilt scores had a stronger positive relationship between emotional dysregulation and daily rate of NSSIB than their high-guilt counterparts. The interaction between emotion dysregulation and shame approached significance, with patterns showing that participants with high shame scores had a stronger, more positive relationship between emotional dysregulation and daily rate of NSSIB, than those who were low on shame. These relationships were also examined in only the subsample of participants who had self-injured. Results suggest that guilt serves as a protective factor, while shame serves as a risk factor for the presence and rate of NSSIB.



Self-injurious behavior, Anxiety, Shame, Depression, Guilt, Moderation