Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Amy Brausch (Director), Stephen O'Connor, Andrew Mienaltowski

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This study explored the potential for physical activity to be an effective, healthy coping strategy alternative to self-harm behaviors. Regression analyses were performed to assess how physical activity level related to risk factors (i.e., emotional dysregulation, self-esteem, and depression) and self-harm behaviors. The relationship between selfharm and exercise motivations was also examined. Participants were recruited from two high schools (n = 95) and one university (n = 72) in the southeastern region of the United States. Analyses were run using the following measures from a survey packet: adapted Exercise Questionnaire (Helmerhorst, Brage, Warren, Besson, & Ekelund, 2012), Exercise Motivations Inventory—Second Edition (Markland & Ingledew, 1997), Inventory of Statements About Self-Injury (Klonsky & Olino, 2008), Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale – 2nd Edition (Reynolds, 2002), Eating Disorders Inventory – 3 (Garner, 2004), and Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (Miller, Anton, & Townson, 2008). Of the 167 who participated, 41.3% endorsed at least one instance of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). Results indicated that NSSI frequency was significantly negatively associated with physical activity (β = -.22, p < 0.01). An interaction was found between physical activity and depression, such that physical activity moderated the relationship between depression and self-harm. The overall model explained 28.2% of the variance, F(3,145) = 10.02, p < .01. Affiliation and appearancebased exercise motivations significantly associated with decreased (β = -.244, p = .047) and increased (β = .320, p = .001) frequencies of self-harm, respectively. Overall, the findings suggest that physical activity may possess a protective nature against self-harm behaviors, especially in individuals with depressive symptoms.


Applied Behavior Analysis | Clinical Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts