Self-harm reasons, goal achievement, and prediction of future self-harm intent. Academic Article uri icon


  • Self-harm may have several reasons, and these reasons may have corresponding implied goals. The current study examined reasons for self-harm and whether the a priori goals intended by these reasons were achieved. Fifty-seven individuals with a history of self-harm were recruited online and volunteered their time to complete a series of online questionnaires assessing past self-harm frequency, self-harm reasons, whether the goal associated with these reasons was achieved, and future self-harm intent. Reasons to reduce tension and dissociation associated with more past self-harm, a higher intent to self-harm again, and it was reported that the goals associated with reasons were achieved (i.e., these internal states were extinguished). Achievement of these goals (i.e., reported reductions in tension and dissociation) mediated the relation between corresponding self-harm reasons and intent to self-harm in the future. Findings support the view that self-harm is a maladaptive coping strategy and the reinforcement component of the experiential avoidance model of self-harm. Results have clinical implications and heuristic value for future research, which are discussed.

publication date

  • May 2010