Stepping Out of the Shadows Non-Suicidal Self-Injury as Its Own Diagnostic Category

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Lindsay Cohen


Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is the repetitive and intentional act of causing injury to one’s own body without suicidal intent. NSSI is an extremely prevalent and pervasive phenomenon, affecting between 13.0 to 23.2% of individuals in the general population. There are significant negative outcomes that may result from engaging in NSSI including risk of serious physical injury, becoming addicted to the behavior, experiencing stigmatization and social rejection, and an increased risk for suicidality. There is also sufficient evidence in the literature supporting the distinction between NSSI and suicide as well as NSSI and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Creating a distinct diagnosis of NSSI in the DSM has many positive clinical implications such as developing a tailored treatment for individuals who engage in such behaviors, stimulating further research about NSSI, improving communication regarding behaviors of self-injury, and bringing awareness to this widespread behavior. This article evaluates each of these benefits to demonstrate that NSSI deserves to be a distinct diagnostic entity in the DSM.

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How to Cite
Cohen, L. (2019). Stepping Out of the Shadows: Non-Suicidal Self-Injury as Its Own Diagnostic Category. Columbia Social Work Review, 12(1), 11–20.