Self-harm in relation to attachment theory and the cry of pain model: attachment insecurities and feelings of entrapment as vulnerability factors

Cuenca, Jose (2013) Self-harm in relation to attachment theory and the cry of pain model: attachment insecurities and feelings of entrapment as vulnerability factors. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Self-harm thoughts and behaviour have been found to be associated with a wide variety of distal and proximal factors; however, few studies have examined how these factors work together to increase the risk of self-harm. A key distal factor is a history of child and family adversity, which attachment theory views as a precursor of attachment insecurities that may increase the risk of later self-harm. A key proximal factor is the desire to escape from overwhelming distress, and Williams (2001) cry of pain model describes a process that could help better understand the reasons behind seeking escape via self-harm. This research investigated whether insecurely attached individuals tend to feel trapped and whether entrapment leads to self-harm thoughts (suicide ideation [Chapter 2] and thoughts about non-suicidal self-injury [Chapter 3]). This research also investigated whether feelings of entrapment among insecurely attached individuals varied as a function of problem-solving (as assessed with the Means-Ends Problem-Solving [MEPS] procedure [Chapter 4] and a diary study [Chapter 5]). The effect of stressful events on subsequent feelings of defeat and entrapment, and the role of attachment, was also examined using an experimental design (Chapter 6).

Self-harm thoughts were common among insecurely attached individuals and among those who felt trapped. Entrapment was reported by insecurely attached individuals, but this feeling did not explain their self-harm thoughts nor did it vary as a function of problem-solving. In response to a laboratory stressor, attachment insecurities seem to exacerbate negative emotions. The findings suggest that assessment of attachment styles could help to identify individuals at risk of self-harm. Moreover, interventions aimed at reducing feelings of entrapment could decrease the risk of self-harm. Still, studies are needed to clarify the direction of the relationships between attachment, entrapment and self-harm, and the psychological mechanisms that might underlie these relationships.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Townsend, E.J.
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC 321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
Item ID: 14457
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2014 08:20
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 13:43

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