Monthly Archives: September 2015

Disgust, self-disgust and disability: A disability studies perspective (chapter, 2015)

Reeve, D. (2015) ‘Disgust, self-disgust and disability: A disability studies perspective’, in P. Powell, P. Overton and J. Simpson (eds) The Revolting Self: Perspectives on the Psychological and Clinical Implications of Self-directed Disgust, London: Karnac Books, pp. 53-74.


There has been little written within disability studies about the role of self-disgust in the lives of disabled people. Drawing on both psychological and sociological approaches, this chapter will look at the assumptions and realities of self-disgust in the lives of those whose ‘impaired’ bodies and minds cause them to be labelled as disabled, and therefore in the eyes of some, to be viewed as deviant and disgusting.

Within contemporary Western society, disability is viewed as a negative identifier of difference; cultural messages and images reinforce the inherent undesirability of impairment and there few positive representations of disabled people. Therefore it is to be expected that many disabled people end up internalising these cultural myths and prejudices about disability, believing that they are somehow of lesser value than non-disabled people. This phenomenon of internalised oppression will be discussed with reference to some of the psychoanalytic ideas developed as part of a contextual psychology of disablism (Watermeyer, 2013) to discuss the relevance of self-disgust when considering the different ways that disabled people manage and challenge internalised oppression.

In addition this chapter will consider the experiences of disabled people who live with incontinence, an impairment which directly challenges the modernist project that demands bodies which are contained, clean and free from contamination. It will be shown that rather than simply feeling self-disgust towards bodies which truly are unruly and leaky, over time these disabled people develop alternative ways of being which provide more positive and healthy relationships between body and psyche than might otherwise be expected.

Psycho-emotional disablism in the lives of people experiencing mental distress (chapter, 2015)

Reeve, D. (2015) ‘Psycho-emotional disablism in the lives of people experiencing mental distress’, in H. Spandler, J. Anderson and B. Sapey (eds) Madness, Distress and the Politics of Disablement, Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 99-112.


The traditional social model of disability focuses on the public, structural barriers faced by disabled people and has been criticised as having little relevance for those people experiencing mental distress. However this group of disabled people do experience psycho-emotional disablism in the form of disablist hate crime and prejudiced attitudes from others. Using this as a starting point, this chapter adopts an extended social relational definition of disablism (Thomas, 2007) to show the interconnections between mental distress, disablism and impairment and considers how they are mediated by structural disablism, psycho-emotional disablism, and the psycho-emotional effects of impairment. A three-fold model is proposed which recognises: mental distress as a diverse way of ‘being’ rather than pathology; the disabling consequences of living with prejudice and stigma; the ‘stickiness’ of impairment within accounts of living with mental distress; and the experience of people living with mental distress and other forms of impairment.

This is an updated version of 2012 chapter. My ideas are further developed, linking together psycho-emotional disablism, structural disablism and impairment in the lives of people experiencing mental distress.