Interoceptive Impairment & Non-Suicidal Self-Injury

Research Paper Title

A multi-measure examination of interoception in people with recent nonsuicidal self-injury.


Self-injurious behaviors (SIB) are highly dangerous, yet prediction remains weak. Novel SIB correlates must be identified, such as impaired interoception. This study examined whether two forms of interoceptive processing (accuracy and sensibility) for multiple sensations (general, cardiac, and pain) differed between people with and without recent nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI).


Participants were adults with recent (n = 48) NSSI and with no history of SIBs (n = 55). Interoceptive sensibility was assessed with self-reports. Interoceptive accuracy for cardiac sensations was assessed using the heartbeat tracking task. Interoceptive accuracy for pain was assessed with a novel metric that mirrored the heartbeat tracking test.


Participants with recent NSSI reported significantly lower interoceptive sensibility for general sensations relative to people without SIBs. Groups did not differ on interoceptive sensibility for cardiac sensations or pain. Groups also did not differ on interoceptive accuracy for cardiac sensations. The NSSI group exhibited significantly lower interoceptive accuracy for pain compared with the No SIB group.


Interoceptive impairment in people with NSSI may vary by interoceptive domain and sensation type. Diminished interoceptive accuracy for sensations relevant to the pathophysiology of self-injury may be a novel SIB correlate.


Forrest, L.N. & Smith, A.R. (2021) A multi-measure examination of interoception in people with recent nonsuicidal self-injury. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behaviour. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12732. Online ahead of print.

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