‘The last thing you feel is the self-disgust’ the role of self-directed disgust in men who have attempted suicide: A grounded theory study
Mason, D., James, D., Andrew, L., & Fox, J.R.E.
Objective: Globally, suicide affects more men than women. Emotional pain underpins many theoretical accounts of suicidality, yet little is known about the role of disgust in suicide. Self-directed disgust, whereby aspects of the self-serve as an object of disgust, has been hypothesised to factor in suicide. This research aimed to explore the processes which link self-disgust to attempted suicide in males.
Method: Nine men who had attempted suicide completed semi-structured interviews. The interview data were analysed using a constructivist grounded theory methodology.
Results: Three concepts emerged out of the analysis: (1) self-disgust; (2) worthlessness; and (3) the endured emotional distress of ‘the abyss'” – these concepts interweaved, leading the men to experience hopelessness, disconnection and an inability to cope, leading ultimately to their suicide attempt. Throughout this journey, various disgust-related processes worsened men’s distress and increased their suicidal risk. Historic adversities prevailed across the data, as did the men’s difficulties in understanding their emotions.
Conclusion: Self-disgust was an important emotion in the men’s experiences of suicide and shaped their views of themselves and their lives. The distancing and repellent properties of self-disgust, in addition to the fear of having their ‘disgustingness’ exposed, increased suicidal risk. Self-disgust appeared more pervasive in the suicidality of men with a history of multiple childhood adversities. The limitations of this research are discussed as implications for clinical practice and directions for future research.