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The Revolting Self: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Experience of Self-Disgust in Females With Depressive Symptoms


  • We thank all those who participated in this research, and acknowledge and thank the Howard Morton Trust, Sheffield, UK as the funding body. We also thank Dr. Craig Murray for kindly providing his comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.



Self-focused disgust has been implicated in depression and other mental health problems. However, “self-disgust” as a psychological concept has never been properly defined and remains particularly enigmatic. A qualitative methodology was used to obtain an informed understanding of self-disgust.


Nine female participants with clinically relevant depressive symptoms completed semistructured interviews about their understanding and experiences of self-disgust. These were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.


Four superordinate themes emerged: (a) “The subjective experience of self-disgust” revealed how self-disgust was perceived as a consuming, visceral experience with trait and state components; (b) “Origins of the revolting self” covered antecedent factors and the role of others in the genesis of self-disgust; (c) “Consequences of self-disgust” included the psychological and behavioral results of a disgusting self; and (d) “Associated emotional states” described associations between self-disgust and other feeling states.


The current findings suggest self-disgust is a consuming negative psychological phenomenon, associated with depression, problems with eating, physical appearance, interpersonal relationships, and self-persecution. Implications for clinical practice and future research on the topic are discussed.