Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Examining the Relationship between NSSI Online Support Group Utilization, Pain Tolerance, Depression, and NSSI Preoccupation (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

203P (see Poster Gallery) Examining the Relationship between NSSI Online Support Group Utilization, Pain Tolerance, Depression, and NSSI Preoccupation

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Rebecca Eliseo-Arras, PhD, Assistant Professor, Empire State College, Cheektowaga, NY
Carol Scott, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Jenny Mincin, PhD, Assistant Professor, Empire State College, Staten Island, NY
Michele Paterson, Student, Empire State College, Cheektowaga, NY
Background and Purpose: Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), a form of maladaptive coping often utilized by young adults as a means of quelling extreme negative emotions, is defined as “the deliberate, self-inflicted destruction of body tissue without suicidal intent and for purposes not socially or culturally sanctioned” (ISSS; www.itriples.org).While posting NSSI-related content on social media and examining potentially triggering content is not uncommon, no study has comprehensively examined the relation between their engagement in these social media platforms, pain tolerance, depression, and NSSI preoccupation.

Methods: This study utilized a mixed methods exploratory design (n=114, 66% male, 77% Caucasian) aimed at generating an understanding of the influence of social media on NSSI. Participants were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (Mturk) and were compensated for completing a screening measure and, if eligible, the main survey which contained various measures looking at mental health issues, substance use, trauma, and social media usage. This analysis utilized the question: how often do individuals access NSSI-related online support groups. We examined the responses to these specific questions in relation to pain tolerance, depression symptomatology, and preoccupation with NSSI. Ninety-three (n=93) participants completed this measure and the results of which are discussed below.

Results: For individuals who stated that they accessed NSSI-related online support groups at least once per week (47%), also indicated that they need to ‘mix up’ their self-harming methods to achieve the same desired calming effect. However, for this same group they indicated that they felt the same level of pain as they did when they first began their NSSI behavior. Nearly 68% of participants scored in the major depression range on the CES-D and cross-tabs revealed that 44 of those in the major depression category accessed NSSI-related online support groups at least once per week. For those who accessed the NSSI online groups daily, 28 indicated that they needed to self-injure more than they did in the beginning to obtain the same desired calming effect. Finally, 34 of those who engaged in daily access of NSSI online groups also spent at least 1-3 hours per day occupied by ideas, thoughts, impulses, and images related to NSSI.

Conclusions and Implications: The results of this study point to the need for social workers to stay abreast of their client’s use of social media, particularly those who are being treated for NSSI behavior or those who may be at risk. Further, these results coincide with previous research that postulated that individuals engaging in NSSI seek out online support groups because they may feel like ‘loners’ (Adler & Adler, 2008). Improving prevention and intervention will depend on future research that increases understanding of how and why those who engage in NSSI are posting on social media, examines individual preoccupation with NSSI thoughts and images, as well as taking a deeper dive into individuals’ levels of pain tolerance related to NSSI.