Examining Self-Injury and Coping Based on Sexual Orientation

Mullings, Austin
Approximately 27 to 35% adults engage in Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI), or the deliberate destruction of body tissue without suicidal intent (Brown et al., 2007; Favazza, 1998; Gratz 2001). Past research indicates that LGBT individuals are significantly more likely to report engaging in NSSI (Deliberto, 2008; House & Horn, 2011), however differences in coping strategies have remained unexamined. I hypothesized that individuals who were a sexual minority would report greater forms of dysfunctional coping. Participants were recruited online from international mental health forums, and completed an internet survey. Self-report measures included an assessment of coping strategies using the COPE (Carver, Sheier, & Weintraub, 1989), and NSSI using the Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory (DSHI; Gratz, 2001). A total of 399 individuals participated in the study (90.7% female), with an average age of 27.17. Heterosexual orientation was endorsed by 65.1% of participants. LGBT individuals reported engaging in more forms of NSSI, t(397) = -3.68, p < .001. LGBT individuals engaged in greater mental disengagement, more humor, and less religious coping. Results suggest that in samples with evidence of high psychological distress (e.g., NSSI), few differences in coping are apparent. Clinical implications highlight the need to focus on effective coping strategies in treatment.
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