Blades, Blood and Bandages: A Qualitative Investigation of Self-Injury

  • Theresa McShane

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The perspective of the individual who self-injures has been under-represented in research. This study places the meaning of self-injury for these individuals at its core. People who self-injure can offer comprehensive and discerning insights into the behaviour. This study confirms the findings of earlier research that self-injury is often rooted in processes of suffering. The social and personal cost experienced by people who self-injure can be high, not only in direct relation to the self-injury itself, but also regarding the legacy of the processes of suffering in general from which self-injury emerged. In this study the processes of suffering, ritual and stigma are explored. Using a qualitative approach, data was collected from 25 self-injuring participants though semi-structured interviews. Interview data was supplemented by diaries and collections of poetry. The main findings from the study are that self-injury can emerge as an action scheme of escape from the processes of suffering. It is a highly stigmatised behaviour which can also develop into an extremely ritualised practice involving a complexity of meanings regarding the surroundings, the apparatus and the process. The self-injury ritual can be viewed as an extreme but therapeutic workout for the five senses of the human body.
    Date of Award15 Sept 2008
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorPauline Prior (Supervisor) & Karen McElrath (Supervisor)


    • Self-injury, ritual, stigma, suffering

    Cite this