Exploring Self-Harming Behaviour: Psychological Disorder or Response to Adversity?
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This pilot project explores the use of self-harming behaviours, specifically cutting and burning, and the pathologizing of these behaviours by professionals in the mental health field. A brief examination of the history of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and its classification system is applied to the participants’ experience. Two participants were interviewed using a semi-structured Response-Based approach. Their experience of cutting/burning, their understanding of their diagnosis, and the social responses they experienced after people found out about their self-harming behaviours and their diagnosis were the topics focused upon. Results suggest that there is a relationship between context and the use of self-harming behaviours. The use of cutting/burning appears to be an effective and deliberate strategy to alleviate distress. Considered in context, this behaviour does not appear to be pathological. I propose an alternative to viewing these responses as symptoms of a psychological disorder.