Date of Award

Fall 12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Bradley Green

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

David Echevarria

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Randolph Arnau

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Scott Willoughby

Committee Member 5

Michael Anestis

Committee Member 5 Department



Research on non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) has largely demonstrated increases in pain threshold and pain tolerance in those individuals who have engaged in NSSI, even if they no longer engage in these behaviors (Hooley, Ho, Slater, & Lockshin, 2010). However, little research has been conducted on the mechanisms for these alterations in pain response. Moreover, explorations of these factors often focused on clinical samples despite the growing prevalence of NSSI in adolescents and young adults who are not in treatment. To address these concerns, college students with and without a history of NSSI (N = 69) aged 18 to 53 (M = 19.61, SD = 1.97), completed self-report measures of affect, dissociation, and pain attitudes, and then completed a laboratory pain paradigm (i.e., cold pressor task) assessing pain threshold and pain tolerance. Immediately before and immediately after the cold pressor task, positive and negative affect were assessed. It was predicted that (1) groups would differ on pain threshold and tolerance based on history of NSSI, (2) psychological factors including affect, dissociation, and pain attitudes would predict increased pain threshold and pain tolerance, (3) these factors would also predict increases in positive and negative affect following the completion of the cold pressor task and, (4) the interaction between dissociation, and negative affect would moderate the relationship between history of NSSI and pain threshold and pain tolerance. Results indicated that there were group differences in pain responses based on history of NSSI;though individual predictors of increased pain threshold and tolerance and increased positive and negative affect following pain paradigm were not found to be significant, trends suggested a role of pain catastrophizing and borderline personality traits (such as intrusive and self-destructive symptoms). Lastly, a three-way interaction between NSSI frequency, dissociation, and negative affect significantly predicted pain threshold but did not predict pain tolerance. Theoretical and clinical implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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