Deliberate self-harm in substance-dependent patients and relationship with alexithymia and personality disorders: a case-control study

M C Verrocchio, C Conti, M Fulcheri
Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents 2010, 24 (4): 461-9
The aim of this study Is to evaluate differences in the prevalence of deliberate self-harm (DSH), alexithymia, and clinical personality patterns and syndromes between treatment-seeking substance-dependents and a comparison group, and to investigate the relationship of DSH with alexithymia, and personality disorders. One hundred and fifty-four subjects participated in the study (77 substance-dependent inpatients and 77 comparison group). DSM-IV diagnoses of substance dependence were made by the clinicians of the Addiction Services following assessment that included clinical observation. Participants were evaluated by the Deliberate Self Harm Inventory, Toronto Alexithymia Scale, and Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory. An Identifying Information Form was used to collect demographic information (e.g. age, educational history, marital status, and employment status). Only to the clinical sample information was added on: types of substance used, age at first substance use, age at regular substance use, and previous treatment attempts. Significant group differences were found for all measures (DSH, TAS-20, MCMI-III). Among substance-dependent patients there was a significant difference between groups with and without DSH in terms of previous treatment attempts, Hypomania and Borderline personality disorder. DSH were significantly correlated with difficulty in identifying feelings in all cases in both the comparison group and in the personality disorders group, and with difficulty describing feelings in the personality disorders group. Personality disorder and drug dependency were predictors for DSH. This study suggests that treatment of substance-dependents should involve screening for deliberate self-harm behavior, difficulty identifying and describing feelings, and personality disorders. Probably, when these problems are detected, specific psychological intervention should be integrated to usual treatment for substance-dependent patients.

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