An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experience of self-harm repetition and recovery in young adults

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Wadman, Ruth ; Clarke, David ; Sayal, Kapil ; Vostanis, Panos ; Armstrong, Marie ; Harroe, Caroline ; Majumder, Pallab ; Townsend, Ellen (2016)

Six young adults (19–21) with repeat self-harm for over five years were interviewed about their self-harm, why they continued and what factors might help them to stop. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis identified six themes: Keeping self-harm private and hidden; Self-harm as self-punishment; Self-harm provides relief and comfort; Habituation and escalation of self-harm; Emotional gains and practical costs of cutting; Not believing they will stop completely. Young adults presented self-harm as an ingrained and purposeful behaviour which they could not stop, despite the costs and risks in early adulthood. Support strategies focused on coping skills, not just eradicating self-harm, are required.
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