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Self-Stigma: Types, Effects and How to Overcome?

Self-Stigma: Types, Effects and How to Overcome?

Stigma is a way of thinking or acting negatively towards a certain group. If one group is treated differently than another, this can lead to discrimination. Having self-stigma refers to having negative attitudes or beliefs about yourself.

The stigma of mental illness, HIV, and COVID-19 are just a few examples of medical conditions that cause stigma. Sometimes stigma is internalized rather than perceived by others as a judgment of others.

Feeling ashamed or embarrassed can lead to self-stigma. Low self-worth can result in low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, and a loss of belief in one’s ability to complete tasks. You may find that you are unable to seek treatment for your ailment or to take good care of yourself. 

You can learn more about the stigma of mental health, including examples of self-stigma, and how to overcome it. 

Read: What is Dysphoria

What is self-stigma?

The term self-stigma refers to negatively held beliefs about yourself. The stigma surrounding mental illness is deeply ingrained in our culture, causing people with mental illness to suffer. Here are some examples of stigma:

  • Having the belief that mental illness is the fault of the individual
  • Assuming that mentally ill people are violent
  • Thinking that drug addicts are irresponsible

Living with these types of stigmas for some time might cause you to believe these statements to be true. That is self-stigma.

Types of stigma

Although anti-stigma campaigns have been active for mental illness, the stigma still exists nowadays, and it needs to stop. The fear of rejection and discrimination is heightened by the expectation of rejection and perceived devaluation. Generally speaking, negative attitudes are detrimental to self-esteem, and this needs to stop.

People who suffer from mental disorders need to see a psychiatric professional. This is often avoided because they feel stigmatized. The needs of people with mental illness are so great. Types of stigma include:

1. Stereotypes

It can be defined as a fixed and generalized opinion about a specific group of people. When you stereotype, you assume people with certain characteristics and abilities have the same set as everyone else in the group.

When you stereotype motorcycle riders, you think of them as physically powerful, wearing leather clothing, having long hair, wearing tattoos and drinking beer constantly.

People simplify society through stereotyping. Whenever you meet someone new, you don’t need to think much about them anymore.  That is why stereotypes eventually lead to prejudice.

Read: Gender Dysphoria

2. Prejudice

Prejudice is the feeling and opinion that is irrational and unjust about a person, made without enough thought or knowledge. Individuals who are biased may encourage negative stereotyping, which may influence others to react negatively. Prejudice is linked to conformity. People who do not fit into society’s concept of normal are more likely to face prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a famous example of prejudice. Without much information, the female protagonist formed an opinion about the male protagonist that was personal and negative. Her opinion affected others as well. These other impressions affected the female protagonist as well. However, at the end of the story, everything turned out for the best.

3. Discrimination

All types of stigma are considered violent, but discrimination is the most violent. People who act negatively and violently towards a group of people are considered to be under this public stigma. Discrimination and prejudice are two different things.

Defining discrimination from prejudice requires a distinction between public and self-stigma, according to a study by Corrigan PW. As Corrigan PW stated, prejudice is thinking or acting in a prejudiced way towards others.

They could influence others with their opinion, but they could not hurt them physically. The converse of discrimination is that it encourages others to take advantage of a group of people and harm them.

The awareness of the stigma surrounding mental illness and the differences between prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination has enabled you to recognize the reactions and views others have towards people with mental illnesses.

Read: How Optical Illusions Trick Our Brains

4. Self-stigma or Internalized stigma of mental illness

Mentally ill individuals living in a culture that devalues mental illness and who are constantly exposed to negative stereotyping may develop self-stigma, self-devaluation, low self-esteem, low self-efficacy and low self-concept.

Mental health patients may stereotype themselves as destined to end up like other people suffering from that mental health issue. However, everybody is different and heals in their own way.

The stigma associated with mental illness can make patients afraid that others will know they are seeing a mental health care professional. Further, people with mental illness may believe that their problems have ruined their lives and that they are to blame for them.

The effects of self-stigma

Mentally ill people often suffer from self-stigma, which can negatively affect their quality of life and health outcomes. When you feel that you don’t deserve or are not entitled to things that other people have, like a rewarding career and loving relationships, you have self-stigma. Your empowerment can be undermined and you can feel less valuable as a result. Oftentimes, we are unsure of why we should pursue goals that feel unattainable to us.

Career

People with self-stigma are often worried about how their illnesses will affect their careers. If you feel you aren’t qualified for a job or promotion, you may hold yourself back. It is possible to avoid challenging jobs because you are worried about the effects they might have on your mental health. 

Relationships

Self-stigma makes it hard to form new relationships and weakens your existing ones. It’s less likely that you will seek out friendships and romantic relationships if you feel unlovable or a burden to others. 

Read: What is a Toxic Relationship

Physical and mental health

The risk of getting medical care, including counseling, is greater for people with self-stigma. This delay in care can make it more difficult to achieve recovery and lead a stable life since counseling and appointments with health providers are vital to staying healthy with a mental illness. This reinforces negative feelings about oneself. 

Management of self-stigma

There are people who disagree with the stigma associated with mental illness. There may be those who accept it and use it as a coping mechanism. There may also be those who question the stigma and fight back against it. The stigmatized will suffer greatly, reduce their self-esteem, and have a severely diminished quality of life. It will take anger and the willingness to stand up for what is right to combat the stigma.

Persons who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness benefit from empowerment. Self-empowerment leads to self-orientation, personal growth, and social support. The future of those with mental illness who set goals for themselves is more likely to be positive. Patients are more motivated and more hopeful about their future.

How to overcome self-stigma

It might seem difficult to alter your attitude towards yourself, but research suggests that it is possible. Several programs exist to help people overcome self-stigma.

  • Exposing the negative beliefs and debunking them
  • Empowering people when they perceive themselves negatively and building self-esteem

Feeling down? Here are some tips that might help.

Read: Anticipatory Anxiety

Compile facts

Disprove your negative belief by looking at the facts. Your own experience or data about mental illness can be used to support these. Look at your loving relationships if you feel unlovable, for example. 

Consider sharing your diagnosis

You can share widely or start by sharing with a few select people. Sharing your diagnosis with others can empower you. You are ultimately the one who must decide whether this is the right step. 

Seek help

Counselors and other mental health professionals are uniquely qualified to help you cope with self-stigma. Behavioral interventions such as cognitive therapy and others can help you face your own self-stigmatization. 

Get in touch with your peers

Researchers have found that talking to other people with mental illness can reduce feelings of loneliness and stigma. Programs offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) support people suffering from mental illness as they work through challenges, including self-stigma.

Read: Clinical Psychology

Summary

Self-stigma is a negative view of yourself. Mentally ill people are susceptible to internalizing the social stigma that surrounds their condition. It’s important to overcome self-stigma since it can affect your quality of life and your mental and physical health. 

It can be isolating to live with a stigmatized health condition, like mental illness. It’s easy to think that people with mental illness are the problem when they are faced with so many examples of stigma. In fact, this isn’t the case. It is possible to manage mental illnesses. It is important that you work with peers and professionals who can contribute to your self-esteem and overcome self-stigma as part of your treatment plan. 

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