The Co-occurrence of Self-Harm and Aggression: A Cognitive-Emotional Model of Dual-Harm

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There is growing evidence that some individuals engage in both self-harm and aggression during the course of their lifetime. The co-occurrence of self-harm and aggression is termed dual-harm. Individuals who engage in dual-harm may represent a high-risk group with unique characteristics and pattern of harmful behaviours. Nevertheless, there is an absence of clinical guidelines for the treatment and prevention of dual-harm and a lack of agreed theoretical framework that accounts for why people may engage in this behaviour. The present work aimed to address this gap in the literature by providing a narrative review of previous research of self-harm, aggression and dual-harm, and through doing so, presenting an evidence-based theory of dual-harm – the cognitive-emotional model of dual-harm. This model draws from previous studies and theories, including the General Aggression Model, diathesis-stress models and emotional dysregulation theories. The cognitive-emotional model highlights the potential distal, proximal and feedback processes of dual-harm, the role of personality style and the possible emotional regulation and interpersonal functions of this behaviour. In line with our theory, various clinical and research implications for dual-harm are suggested, including hypotheses to be tested by future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number586135
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2021


  • Suicide
  • aggression
  • assault
  • co-occurrence
  • dual-harm
  • self-harm
  • self-injury
  • violence


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