A Threshold Task to Determine Help-Seeking for Deliberate Self-Injury: a Proof of Concept Study

Publication Name

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment


Those engaging in deliberate self-injury have low rates of help-seeking (HS) behaviour. There is a lack of a consolidated theory of HS and there has been a reliance on self-report measures rather than on behavioural data. This study aims to determine whether there are measurable thresholds for self-versus other HS using an analogue computer response task and whether these thresholds correlate with self-reported help-seeking. One hundred and eighty-three university students completed self-report questionnaires assessing correlates of HS and a computer task to capture HS intentions for self-injury. Overall, 67.20% of the sample produced a threshold with 2.4 deliberate scratches before crossing the threshold for agreeing they would seek help for themselves. The average threshold for self was greater than the average threshold for others. Self-report questionnaire responses correlated with the computer task data. These findings support a threshold theory of HS for deliberate self-injury. Individuals are more likely to endorse HS for others before themselves. Future research needs to clarify the psychological processes that inform differential self-other responding to inform HS interventions and assess whether these thresholds are malleable. The results provide preliminary validation of the behaviour response method as an alternative to traditional self-report questionnaires to measure HS intentions.

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