Assessing Attentional Bias Toward Nonsuicidal Self-Injury Cues in Young Adults with Histories of Engaging in Self-Harm

Michael R. Riquino, Sarah E. Reese, Eric L. Garland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a prevalent behavior among young people maintained by complex transdiagnostic processes. This study sought to investigate whether NSSI attentional bias—the preferential allocation of attentional resources to environmental NSSI cues—is one such transdiagnostic process experienced by young adults with histories of NSSI. Participants were 39 young adults who completed a dot probe task designed to measure attentional bias to NSSI cues and negatively-valenced cues. Participants also provided NSSI urge and affect ratings during the task. Paired samples t-tests were conducted to determine if participants exhibited a significant attentional bias to NSSI cues and negatively-valenced cues compared to neutral cues, and to test whether NSSI urge ratings following the dot probe task increased from baseline levels. Participants exhibited a significant attentional bias to NSSI cues presented for 200 ms and a significant attentional bias to negative cues presented for 200 ms. The urge to engage in NSSI was elicited by NSSI cues, but not by negative cues. These findings indicate exposure to NSSI cues elicits both attentional bias and NSSI urge, a unique process that differs from a mere generalized attentional bias to negative affective stimuli known to be exhibited by individuals with other forms of psychopathology, such as anxiety or depressive disorders. These results provide preliminary evidence for possible avenues of intervention as it relates to the role of exposure to NSSI cues in the maintenance of NSSI, including managing cue-elicited urge and tolerating changes in affective states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-650
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Adolescent Social Work Journal
Volume38
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Attentional bias
  • Nonsuicidal self-injury
  • Urge
  • Young adults

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