Psychiatric Stigma

Stigma refers to the prejudice and discrimination experienced by someone who represents, in some way, whatever the stigma is attached to. Psychiatric stigma would be attached to mental illness, such that the person with a mental disorder must deal, not only with psychological distress caused by a disorder but also with the consequences of other people’s long-held prejudices about mental illness, sometimes including personal, social, and occupational rejection.


Self-stigma or felt stigma is that which develops from 1) the negative attitude the person with a mental disorder has of himself because of his illness, 2) the shame he feels, and 3) the expectations that others regard him differently. Thus, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and he does behave differently, as well as self-isolate and avoid seeking help for his disorder. This may be further augmented by guilt over “family stigma” that he believes members of his family are experiencing due to his disorder.


Therapists, psychiatrists, and other health professionals must address the problem of stigma with their patients and also with themselves.