Erin Elizabeth Holley is a 2015 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara

Dissertation Committee:

  • Steven Kadin, Ph.D. Committee Chair
  • Allen Bishop, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • E. David Klonsky, Ph.D., External Expert


nonsuicidal self-injury, adolescents, phenomenology, self-harm, affect regulation

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The purpose of the current study was to explore the lived experience of adolescents who engage in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). Phenomenological interviews inquired about emotionality, conflict styles, and parental relationships among a clinical population of six adolescents. All participants met criteria for the proposed diagnosis of NSSI found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Nine central themes emerged as significant: identification with an alternative to the dominant culture, inhibition of affect, difficulty managing conflict, suicidality, negative emotionality, feeling numb, negative internal monologue, self-harm as a temporary coping skill, and maternal conflict. The affect regulation function was clearly supported, as adolescents demonstrated low distress tolerance, poor affect regulation skills, and utilized NSSI to obtain temporary emotional relief. Results indicate that adolescent self-injurers are avoidant, as they suppress both positive and negative emotionality, and actively avoid initiating, managing, or addressing conflict. Findings revealed a need for clinical treatment to address the underlying affective disturbances associated with the behavior.


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