Self-Injurious Behavior and Its Relationship to Eating Disorder Symptom Severity


Kevin Thomas

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Kim Gorgens

First Committee Member

Michael Karson

Second Committee Member

Tamara Pryor


Self-injury, Quantitative research, Diagnosis, Day hospital, Clinical lore, Treatment effectiveness, Treatment outcome, Partial hospitalization, Eating disorders

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


Widely held clinical assumptions about self-harming eating disorder patients were tested in this project. Specifically, the present study had two aims: (1) to confirm research that suggests patients with self-injurious behavior exhibit greater severity in eating disorder symptomology; and (2) to document the treatment course for these patients (e.g. reported change in eating disorder attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors) from admission to discharge. Data from 43 participants who received treatment at a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) for Eating Disorders were used in the current study. The length of treatment required for study inclusion reflected mean lengths of stay (Williamson, Thaw, & Varnardo-Sullivan, 2001) and meaningful treatment lengths in prior research (McFarlane et al., 2013; McFarlane, Olmsted, & Trottier, 2008): five to eight weeks. Scores on the Eating Disorder Inventory-III (Garner, 2004) at the time of admission and discharge were compared. These results suggest that there are no significant differences between eating disordered patients who engage in self-injury and those who do not in terms of symptom severity or pathology at admission. The results further suggest that patients in both groups see equivalent reductions in symptoms from admission to discharge across domains and also share non-significant changes in emotional dysregulation over the course of treatment. Importantly, these results also suggest that general psychological maladjustment is higher at discharge for eating disordered patients who engage in self-injury.


xx pages

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