Thresholds and tolerance of physical pain among young adults who self-injure

Katrina McCoy, William Fremouw, Daniel W. McNeil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


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 selfinjury 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-377
Number of pages7
JournalPain Research and Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Pain perception
  • Pain tolerance
  • Self-harm
  • Self-injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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