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  • EMP lab

Do People Actually Feel Pain During Self-Injury?

There has been longstanding debate in the field as to whether people feel acute pain when they self-injure, or whether most experience a "pain analgesia" effect that prevents feelings of pain. Using experience sampling with smartphones, we followed the self-injury experiences of adolescents and young adults. We found that although some people reported select instances of pain absence during self-injury, the vast majority of people and and episodes were characterized by substantial feelings of pain. In fact, the less pain felt during the episode, the more injuries (i.e. cuts, scratches, pinches) occurred during the episode. We believe this is because pain serves a function of distraction from aversive emotions (i.e., emotional cascades) during self-injury.

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