The role of narrative incoherence in the persistence of mental illness
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The Role of Narrative Incoherence in the Persistence of Mental Illness. Anthony Papathomas, Loughborough University David Lavallee, Aberystwyth University Contact: [email protected] Study Outline.

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The Role of Narrative Incoherence in the Persistence of Mental Illness

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The role of narrative incoherence in the persistence of mental illness

The Role of Narrative Incoherence in the Persistence of Mental Illness

Anthony Papathomas, Loughborough University

David Lavallee, Aberystwyth University

Contact: [email protected]


Study outline

Study Outline

  • Part of a general PhD thesis on athletes’ experiences of living with eating disorders

  • A narrative life history of an athlete with an eating disorder

  • Unstructured interactive interviews produced over 7 hours of data

  • Narrative analysis of content and structure


Presentation focus

Presentation focus...

  • The need to construct an understanding of why mental illnesses happen to us

  • The impact of this understanding on continued experiences of mental illness


Narrative theory

Narrative theory...

  • Human experience is made meaningful through the stories we tell of ourselves, our life narratives (Polkinghorne, 1988)

  • We causally link biographical events into a coherent narrative whole that gives meaning to experience

  • This often creative process has been called “emplotment” (Ricoeur, 1990), as it places experience into a coherent plot


Narratives and illness

Narratives and Illness...

  • When an event occurs that cannot be explained, an experience that goes against our projected life paths, narrative coherence is lost, there is no plot

    • e.g. Traumatic events, Chronic /Serious illness

  • Narrative incoherence is associated with psychological distress such as despair and identity loss


Meeting holly

Meeting Holly...

  • 20 year old student and elite basketball player

  • Previously bullied by school teacher for not achieving to level of older brother

  • Continued history of chronic self-starvation and clinical depression


Why did it happen

Why did it happen?

well as far as I know or am concerned it all just hit at that one time and the sort of abuse that I was getting from that teacher set the ball rolling and I just feel it’s clearly still affecting me in some ways now and I can only blame that on not having…like I can’t close, for everyone else it’s just done and past but I can’t close the book on it because I was never told why it happened. I was never sat down and talked through, no one ever asked me how I was feeling, it was just “you’re clearly going off the rails in some cases here’s some anti-depressants and things will be fine” it was just never, even up to today it’s not been dealt with.


Why did it happen1

Why did it happen?

well as far as I know or am concerned it all just hit at that one time and the sort of abuse that I was getting from that teacher set the ball rolling and I just feel it’s clearly still affecting me in some ways now and I can only blame that on not having…like I can’t close, for everyone else it’s just done and past but I can’t close the book on it because I was never told why it happened. I was never sat down and talked through, no one ever asked me how I was feeling, it was just “you’re clearly going off the rails in some cases here’s some anti-depressants and things will be fine” it was just never, even up to today it’s not been dealt with.


Why didn t my parents help me

Why didn’t my parents help me?

I think there’s always going to be a kind of what if? What if they’d (parents) been a bit more supportive rather than fobbing me off to the doctors a little bit and just…I don’t know whether they just didn’t know how to deal with it or were embarrassed or what?


Why didn t my parents help me1

Why didn’t my parents help me?

I think there’s always going to be a kind of what if? What if they’d (parents) been a bit more supportive rather than fobbing me off to the doctors a little bit and just…I don’t know whether they just didn’t know how to deal with it or were embarrassed or what?


Persistence of mental illness

Persistence of Mental Illness

I’m not really making progress with it. I’m just kind of…I’m not even dealing with it I’m just kind of going along day to day with it rather than trying to you know move on from it and I don’t think that’s something I can do on my own but where to go from there I just don’t know…you know I’m doing what I can but it’s clearly not, me doing it isn’t really progressing anywhere.


Persistence of mental illness1

Persistence of Mental Illness

I’m not really making progress with it. I’m just kind of…I’m not even dealing with it I’m just kind of going along day to day with it rather than trying to you know move on from it and I don’t think that’s something I can do on my ownbut where to go from there I just don’t know…you know I’m doing what I can but it’s clearly not, me doing it isn’t really progressing anywhere.


Reflections

Reflections...

  • Inability to place traumatic events into a coherent explanatory narrative plot can lead to the persistence of mental health difficulties

  • Opportunities to tell one’s story can facilitate the process of narrative re-construction

  • Narrative therapy, which prompts new or different ways of storying life experience, should be explored as a viable treatment option


The role of narrative incoherence in the persistence of mental illness1

The Role of Narrative Incoherence in the Persistence of Mental Illness

Anthony Papathomas, Loughborough University

David Lavallee, Aberystwyth University

Contact: [email protected]


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