The purpose of this study is to examine the prevalence and correlates of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) among children and adolescents diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BP).
Four hundred-thirty two youth with a diagnosis of BP and their parents, including 193 children and 239 adolescents, completed a diagnostic interview and instruments to assess youth clinical and illness history, youth comorbidity, parental mood disorder, and psychosocial functioning.
Approximately 22% of children and 22% of adolescents reported NSSI during the course of their most recent mood episode. In a multivariate model controlling for global impairment, among children, a BPI or BPII diagnosis (versus BPNOS), psychosis, separation anxiety disorder, and greater severity of depressive symptoms were found to be associated with NSSI. Among adolescents, a mixed episode, a suicide attempt, greater severity of depressive symptoms, and poor psychosocial functioning were found to be associated with NSSI. Neither the presence of a youth comorbid disruptive behavior disorder nor a parental mood disorder was associated with NSSI.
The primary limitations of this study include the use of a cross-sectional study design, lack of a control group, and limited generalizability of study results to non-clinical and ethnically diverse samples.
NSSI is not uncommon among youth with BP, particularly those who present with BPI or BPII, psychosis, a mixed episode, suicidal behavior, severe depressive symptoms, separation anxiety, and/or poor psychosocial functioning. However, the relative importance of these factors in relation to NSSI may vary with age. Treatments for BP that are developmentally sensitive, examine the function of NSSI for each youth, and teach adaptive skills to address emotional and social needs, may prove to be most successful.
Keywords: Bipolar Disorder, Self-Injury, Suicide, Comorbidity, Psychosocial