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Emotional Dysregulation and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: A Meta-Analytic Review

Author(s): Jianing You, Yaxuan Ren, Xu Zhang, Zhilong Wu, Sian Xu, Min-Pei Lin2


Emotion dysregulation is generally agreed to be an important risk factor for non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). It is not clear, however, which aspects of emotional dysregulation are more strongly related to NSSI. This article aimed to present a meta-analytic review of the associations between the different dimensions of emotional dysregulation and NSSI. In total, 42 studies with 46 samples were included in the meta-analyses. Results showed that higher levels of emotional dysregulation in all eight dimensions (i.e., lack of emotional awareness, lack of emotional clarity, non-acceptance of emotional responses, limited access to effective emotional regulation strategies, difficulties controlling impulses when experiencing negative emotions, difficulties engaging in goal-directed behaviors when experiencing negative emotions, inability to express emotions, and emotional reactivity) were associated with increased risk of NSSI, with the strength of the associations between emotional reactivity and limited access to effective emotional regulation strategies and NSSI being the strongest. Moreover, NSSI measure type significantly moderated the association between limited access to emotional regulation strategies and NSSI. Findings of this review highlight some limitations of the existing literature, such as the use of cross-sectional designs, the inclusion of predominantly individuals from western countries, and the lack of examination of the mechanisms underlying the emotional regulation function of NSSI. These limitations represent important directions for future research.

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