Original Article

Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 421-428

First online:

The Pernicious Blend of Rumination and Fearlessness in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury

  • Edward A. SelbyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Florida State University
  • , Lavonna D. ConnellAffiliated withOakwood University
  • , Thomas E. JoinerJr.Affiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Florida State University Email author 

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Recent theory suggests that people may engage in dysregulated behaviors, such as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), as a way to distract from rumination and emotional cascades (Selby et al. 2008); similarly, another theory suggests that people may not engage in self-injurious behavior without habituation to fear through repeated exposure to painful events (Joiner 2005). We hypothesized that both high rumination and habituation to the fear of pain may strongly influence NSSI because those who lack a fear of pain and ruminate intensely will not be afraid to inflict physical pain as a way to distract from negative affect. Participants were undergraduate students (N = 94), a large portion of whom reported engaging in NSSI. These participants were given measures of past painful experiences, rumination, and frequency of recent self-injury. Using hierarchical linear regression, evidence was found to support the interaction effect of rumination and painful/provocative experiences on the frequency of NSSI, even after controlling for important variables such as age, gender, and sensation seeking. Although the interaction significantly predicted NSSI, it did not predict dysregulated eating behaviors or drinking to cope.


Rumination Self-injury Self-harm Emotional cascades Acquired capability