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Experiences of living with visible difference: Individual and social reflections

Sharratt, Nicholas David; Jenkinson, Elizabeth; Moss, Timothy; Clarke, Alexandra; Rumsey, Nichola

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Nicholas Sharratt
Research Fellow in Centre for Appearance Research

Tim Moss
Director of PGR Studies and Associate Professor

Alexandra Clarke


Many health conditions impact upon an individual’s appearance and result in an altered appearance (“visible difference”). The presence of visible difference is associated with a variety of psychosocial difficulties and challenges, yet calls for an integrated theory of adjustment remain largely unanswered. This qualitative research, conducted in the United Kingdom, drew upon 22 interviews conducted with participants who had a variety of visible differences. It examined their experiences and reflections related to their difference and the impact that their visible difference had upon their lives. A thematic analysis produced two themes. The first of which was predominantly concerned with the impact of visible difference upon the individual whilst the second captured the inherently social nature of appearance and appearance based judgements. The analysis is considered in light of the contention that an integrated theory of adjustment to visible difference is required and participants’ experiences with healthcare professionals and the implications for those providing care are introduced.


Sharratt, N. D., Jenkinson, E., Moss, T., Clarke, A., & Rumsey, N. (2019). Experiences of living with visible difference: Individual and social reflections. Health Psychology Update, 28(2),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 18, 2019
Publication Date Oct 10, 2019
Deposit Date May 30, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 11, 2020
Journal Health Psychology Update
Print ISSN 0954-2027
Publisher The British Psychological Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 2
Keywords visible difference, psychology, appearance, qualitative research, thematic analysis
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Corporate Creators : The VTCT Foundation Research Team at the Centre for Appearance Research