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A Narrative Analysis of Online Discussions About Self-Harm within an Attachment Framework

Self-harm has become a prevalent problem among young people. Research reveals that people who self-harm tends to avoid seeking health care due to fear of being judged or dismissed and instead prefer support from peers on online forums. These online forums are ideal tools for gaining access to the often-hidden world of self-harmers and can be used as sources of research data. In the present study the research objective was thus to gain insights into how individuals narrate meaning of their experiences related to self-harm. As research tool the narrative psychological approach was adopted for the analysis of 648 online narratives. The main findings in the present study were that online narratives tended to reflect narrative fragmentation, incoherence and confusion. The narrators expressed difficulties understanding their own needs behind the acts of selfharm but tended to perceive these acts as coping strategies for regulating emotional distress and built up pressure. The development of self-destructive coping mechanisms was sometimes described as stemming from adverse childhood experiences. The online narratives were discussed and interpreted within an attachment based theoretical narrative framework conceptualizing how attachment needs in childhood can be associated with pain and suffering if these needs have consistently been dismissed or met with hostility. Although the narratives in the present study may not generalize to all individuals who self-harm, clinicians can benefit from understanding the phenomenon of self-harm from an inside perspective.


Linda Lundin

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