Self‐neglect is a complex, relatively common and as yet not fully understood phenomenon. People who self‐neglect often do not undertake those activities which are judged necessary to maintain a socially accepted standard of personal and household hygiene or to maintain their health status. This may be explained by a variety of factors of which psychopathology, culture, social class and poverty all play a role in the construction of this phenomenon. The self‐neglect literature overwhelmingly presents professional views and focuses on the most severe cases. This paper explores some core issues in relation to self‐neglect theory through in‐depth interviews with atypical (related) cases. These cases allow the boundaries of what is and is not self‐neglect to be tested. Analysis of these cases suggests that self‐neglect remains a useful concept but contains a far wide range of presentations than previously reported.