Researchers Develop Test to Assess Risk of Self-Injurious Behavior
> 5/24/2007 12:01:06 PM

A team led by Harvard University researcher Dr. Matthew K. Nock has developed a behavioral test that they hope will help identify those individuals who struggle with self-injurious thoughts and behaviors. Self-injurious behaviors, as we've discussed before, are difficult to gauge in terms of numbers because of the the intensely private nature of the behavior. What makes Dr. Nock's efforts so compelling, is that by design, his test wouldn't require self-reporting of self-injurious thoughts or behaviors. Instead, using a computer program that measures reaction times to specific words and phrases, Nock was able to statistically predict which subjects thought about or had practiced self-injury.

Speaking to Reuters, Nock explained the study:

"What we have is the first evidence of a behavioral measure of self-injurious thoughts," Nock said. "The potential implications of this line of research are enormous."

For instance, the investigator continued, "this test ultimately could be used in emergency rooms, doctor's offices, and other health care settings to help clinicians identify those who are most at risk for self-injury."

As Nock points out, the applications of a similar system are far ranging. Using only a simple computer set-up, a more refined test could theoretically identify those at risk for self-injury, and in specific settings could lead to immediate and thorough follow-up. There is also a possibility that new research being conducted now by Nock along the same lines could lead to an assment that screened for risk in relationship to suicide and suicidal ideation. Indeed, using this type of behavioral assessment model, one could test for any number of issues that a person might not feel comfortable revealing, or that one might not even understand about himself.

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