Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is associated with marked functional impairment and is a robust predictor of suicide attempts. Prevalence rates of NSSI, and self-directed violence more broadly, are elevated among military veterans. Despite the inclusion of interpersonal difficulty in the diagnostic criteria for NSSI disorder, the relationship between interpersonal risk factors and NSSI is not well-characterized, especially among veterans. This ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study investigated the hypothesis that interpersonal stressors and associated distress would precede and predict NSSI urge and engagement—but not vice versa—via cross-lagged multilevel modeling.
Forty veterans with NSSI disorder completed a 28-day EMA protocol with three daily prompts assessing NSSI urges, NSSI engagement, the occurrence of interpersonal stressors, and associated subjective interpersonal distress.
Interpersonal stressors preceded and predicted subsequent NSSI urges, but not NSSI engagement, whereas subjective interpersonal distress preceded and predicted both NSSI urges and NSSI engagement.
Results identified interpersonal stressors as a risk factor for NSSI urges, and interpersonal distress as a risk factor for both NSSI urges and NSSI engagement. Findings highlight the importance of temporally assessing interpersonal factors related to NSSI and suggest that interpersonal distress may be a modifiable risk factor for NSSI.