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Pain Research and Management
Volume 15 (2010), Issue 6, Pages 371-377
Original Article

Thresholds and Tolerance of Physical Pain Among Young Adults Who Self-Injure

Katrina McCoy, William Fremouw, and Daniel W McNeil

Department of Psychology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Prevalence rates of nonsuicidal self-injury among college students range from 17% to 38%. Research indicates that individuals with borderline personality disorder who self-injure sometimes report an absence of pain during self-injury. Furthermore, self-injury in the absence of pain has been associated with more frequent suicide attempts. The present study examined pain thresholds and tolerance among 44 college students (11 who engaged in self-injury and 33 who did not). Pain thresholds and tolerance were measured using an algometer pressure device that was used to produce pain in previous laboratory research. Participants who engaged in self-injury had a higher pain tolerance than those who did not. In addition, participants who engaged in self-injury rated the pain as less intense than participants who did not. ANCOVAs revealed that depression was associated with pain rating and pain tolerance.