Motives for Nonsuicidal Self-Injury in Individuals with Lifetime Depressive Disorders and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

  • Courtney N. ForbesEmail author
  • Matthew T. Tull
  • Julia R. Richmond
  • Alexander L. Chapman
  • Katherine L. Dixon-Gordon
  • Kim L. Gratz


Although researchers have identified a number of factors that may motivate individuals to engage in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), few studies have examined whether motives for NSSI differ as a function of psychiatric diagnosis. Therefore, the goal of the present study was to examine motives for lifetime NSSI among individuals with a history of psychiatric disorders associated with elevated rates of NSSI: depressive disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Young adults (N = 139) with a history of NSSI completed several diagnostic interviews and questionnaires, including a measure of lifetime NSSI motives. Results demonstrated that participants with (vs. without) a lifetime depressive disorder reported significantly lower levels of interpersonal influence motives for NSSI, and participants with (vs. without) lifetime PTSD reported significantly higher levels of emotional relief and feeling generation motives. Further, results revealed a significant interaction between lifetime depressive disorders and PTSD for interpersonal communication motives; specifically, whereas participants with lifetime diagnoses of both a depressive disorder and PTSD did not differ significantly in reported interpersonal communication motives from participants with neither diagnosis, those with lifetime PTSD but without a lifetime depressive disorder reported significantly higher levels of interpersonal communication motives than those without either diagnosis. Results suggest that a history of depression and PTSD (alone and in combination) may be associated with different motives for NSSI.


Nonsuicidal self-injury Major depressive disorder Posttraumatic stress disorder 



This project was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Operating grant #222112), awarded to ALC and KLG.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Courtney N. Forbes, Matthew T. Tull, Julia R. Richmond, Alexander L. Chapman, Katherine L. Dixon-Gordon and Kim L. Gratz declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Courtney N. Forbes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew T. Tull
    • 1
  • Julia R. Richmond
    • 1
  • Alexander L. Chapman
    • 2
  • Katherine L. Dixon-Gordon
    • 3
  • Kim L. Gratz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ToledoToledoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  3. 3.Department of Psychological and Brain SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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