'Seeing beyond the battled body'- An insight into selfhood and identity from women's accounts who self-harm with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder

Tammi Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Self-harm (self poisoning and self-injury) is broadly characterised as any act intended to harm one's own body, without a conscious intent to die. Research indicates that when practitioners encounter self-harm they often remain anxious, fearful, frustrated, and challenged about such individuals, principally because they are constrained to understand and respond to self-harm almost exclusively within a problematised discourse (Walker, 2006). That is, a problem that must be diagnosed and contained. Women who self-harm with a diagnosis of BPD are often portrayed as being risky, chaotic and their identity can be unstable. The aim of this study was to examine and explore the subjective experiences of women who self-harm with a diagnosis of BPD. 

Participants: Four women who had a history of self-harming behaviour with the diagnosis of BPD volunteered for the study. 

Method: Face-to-face, in-depth narrative interviews were undertaken and were analysed within a framework which drew upon aspects of the 'performance' (Langellier, 1989; 2001) and 'narrative thematic' approaches (Reissman, 1993). 

Findings: Two of the participant's accounts illustrate how their self-harming appeared to have affected their selfhood and sense of agency. They discuss how the external signs of self-harm may take over their identity and how others communicate and interact with them. Despite the problematic nature of self-harm implications for practice are highlighted which practitioners may draw upon in their work around self-harm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-128
Number of pages7
JournalCounselling and Psychotherapy Research
Issue number2
Early online date14 May 2009
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


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