Home Magazines Editors-in-Chief FAQs Contact Us

The sociology of emotions in the psychiatric practice: how residents in psychiatry learn to dislike patients with borderline personality disorder

Sociology International Journal
Chrysovalantis Papathanasiou, Stelios Stylianidis

PDF Full Text


According to the literature, the most disliked patient sub-group is the one diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). The aim of the current study was to explore how psychiatry residents’ emotions toward patients with BPD are learned during biomedical training and how their emotional socialization, in the context of an inpatient psychiatric ward, contributes to the formation of the psychiatrist’s professional identity of authority and constitutes an element of strengthening the bonds of ingroup members against outgroup members, reinforcing the asymmetric relationship in terms of power, between the psychiatrists and the hospitalized patients. This article reports on the findings coming from a combination of ethnographic field research, in a psychiatric ward of a general hospital, and in-depth interviews with eight residents in psychiatry, regarding their emotions toward patients with BPD. The transcriptions of the interviews and the descriptions from field notes were analyzed by qualitative content analysis. One of the main themes revealed during the analysis of the data is called ‘socialized emotions’ and consisted of three sub-themes: a) representational emotions, b) experienced emotions, and c) performed emotions. The three sub-themes could correspond to three distinct phases of the process of emotional socialization of the residents in psychiatry regarding patients with BPD: a) formation of emotionalized schemes, b) lived experiences, c) clinical practices. The sociological understanding of how emotional aspects of the professional identity of the doctor are taught during the residencies is of particular interest. Both clinical and research implications are discussed.


sociology of emotions, emotional socialization, residents in psychiatry, borderline personality disorder