Non-suicidal self-injury and bulimia: the role of emotion dysregulation and body dissatisfaction

Lindsey Hovrud, Raluca Simons, Jeffrey Simons, John Korkow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: Risk factors of negative affect, body dissatisfaction, distress tolerance, and negative urgency are independently associated with bulimia symptoms and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). However, relationships of these risk factors within comorbid presentations are not fully understood. The current study examined specific roles of these risk factors within this relationship. Methods: An at-risk community sample of young adults (N = 429) completed an online survey of negative affect, body dissatisfaction, distress tolerance, negative urgency, bulimia symptoms, and NSSI. Results: A hypothesized path model was a good fit to the data. Results indicated direct paths from body dissatisfaction, negative urgency, and distress tolerance to bulimia symptoms. Negative urgency, distress tolerance, and bulimia symptoms were directly associated with NSSI. Consistent with hypotheses, distress tolerance and negative urgency acted as vulnerability factors, increasing the strength of associations between bulimia symptoms and NSSI. Distress tolerance also strengthened associations between negative urgency and NSSI. In addition to the direct effect, negative urgency was indirectly associated with NSSI via body dissatisfaction bulimia. Hypothesized indirect effects through distress tolerance were not supported. Conclusions: Results support etiological models of bulimia and NSSI, and suggest deficits in emotion regulation strengthen risk of comorbid presentations. Furthermore, individuals with greater impulsivity and difficulty tolerating distress are at increased risk of engaging in both bulimia behaviors and NSSI, providing targets for clinical intervention. Level of evidence: Level V, cross-sectional descriptive study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1097
Number of pages9
JournalEating and Weight Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Bulimia
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotion dysregulation
  • Negative urgency
  • Non-suicidal self-injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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