Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors May Be More Common and Severe Among People Identifying as a Sexual Minority

Behav Ther. 2018 Sep;49(5):768-780. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2017.11.009. Epub 2017 Dec 5.


Research indicates that people who identify as a sexual minority are at higher risk of numerous negative outcomes, including self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITBs). The minority stress model proposes that people identifying as a sexual minority are at higher risk of these behaviors due to sexual orientation-specific stressors-however, it does not clarify whether SITBs will be more severe among these individuals. The present study tested whether SITBs are more common and more severe among people identifying as a sexual minority using several metrics, including frequency of SITB engagement, age of onset of SITB, desire to discontinue SITB engagement, and likelihood of future SITBs. Four independent research samples were used to test this model. Results were then combined and tested in an internal meta-analysis. Findings converge to indicate a longer and more severe course of SITB engagement among people identifying as a sexual minority. Future research is needed to replicate these findings and to advance the understanding of why this imbalance in risk and severity might exist, and how it can be prevented.

Keywords: NSSI; self-injury; sexual minority; suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / diagnosis*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology*
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Thinking*
  • Young Adult