The purpose of this paper is to call on researchers and clinicians to carefully consider the terminology used when discussing non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), and specifically the use of the term “maladaptive” coping.
Drawing on literature regarding stigma, language and self-injury to support the argument that the term maladaptive is inappropriate to describe self-injury.
Use of the term maladaptive conflates short-term effectiveness with long-term outcomes and ignores context in which the behaviour occurs.
Use of the term maladaptive to describe self-injury can invalidate the person with a history of NSSI, impacting stigma and potentially help-seeking. An alternate framing focussed on specific coping strategies is offered.
Language is a powerful medium of communication that has significant influence in how society shapes ideas around mental health. In proposing a change in the way the authors’ talk about self-injury there is potential to significantly improve the wellbeing of people with lived experience of self-injury.
Hasking, P., Lewis, S.P. and Boyes, M.E. (2019), "When language is maladaptive: recommendations for discussing self-injury", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 148-152. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMH-01-2019-0014
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