Definition of Non-suicidal self injury (NSSI)

Non-suicidal self injury (NSSI): A form of intentional physical self-damage or self-harm that is not accompanied by suicidal intent or ideation. The condition non-suicidal self-injury has been proposed for inclusion in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association that will be released in 2013. Examples of NSSI include cutting, burning, stabbing, or excessive rubbing. The behaviors of NSSI are performed with the expectation that the injury produced will be minor to moderate and will not be life-threatening. So-called "common and trivial" behaviors such as nail biting are not included in the proposed definition for NSSI, nor are socially sanctioned practices such as piercing and tattooing.

NSSI is a growing problem among adolescents and young adults and may be a sign of sadness, loneliness, despair, low self-esteem, or the feeling of being unloved. About 14% to 24% of adolescents and young adults have engaged in some type of self-harm, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

See also: self-harm, NSSI

REFERENCE: News release, American Academy of Pediatrics. Lewis, S. Pediatrics, 2011; vol 127: pp e552-e557.

Last Editorial Review: 8/28/2013

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