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Emotion and self-cutting: narratives of service users referred to a personality disorder service

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Issue number2
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)125-132
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date1/10/13
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Theory and existing research suggest that emotion regulation capabilities develop during the formative years. Emotion dysregulation is associated with psychological distress and may contribute towards difficulties such as personality disorder and self-harm. This study aimed to explore the contexts in which individuals' narratives of emotional experience and self-harm developed. Eight participants who cut themselves and were seen by a personality disorder service were recruited. Semi-structured interviews were carried out, and interview transcripts were analysed using a narrative approach.

Five temporal themes were generated: ‘Seen and not heard’, ‘A big release … to get rid of all the pain and hurt’, ‘A vicious circle’, ‘A different world’ and ‘Trying to turn my life around’. The findings highlight how early experiences may have led participants to perceive emotions as unacceptable and subsequently suppress emotion in adulthood. Suppression of emotions appeared to be related to appraisals of emotions and to secondary emotional distress. Furthermore, cutting was linked to suppression of emotions as well as negative self-beliefs formed during childhood and reinforced through subsequent experiences. The study emphasizes the need for therapeutic approaches to focus on emotions when working with individuals who self-cut. Furthermore, the findings indicate the need for compassionate and validating health services that may help service users develop more optimistic future narratives.