The Process and Implications of Self-Stigma in Schizophrenia

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Despite increased understanding of the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders, misperceptions about these disorders persist, leading to stigma and discrimination toward those who live with them. For the purposes of this article, stigma refers to the devaluation of certain persons on the basis of some characteristic they possess, such as possession of a mental health disorder diagnosis. When an individual living with mental illness endorses the discriminatory beliefs regarding their specific disorder and applies it to their self, they are engaging in self-stigma (Corrigan & Watson, 2002). Self-stigma can lead to a variety of negative outcomes, including diminished self-esteem and failure to adhere to treatment programs, leading to poor prognosis (Link, 1982; Ritscher &Phelan, 2004; Corrigan, Watson, & Barr, 2006; Yap, Wright, & Jorm, 2011).
Perhaps the most widely stigmatized mental disorder is schizophrenia. Affecting about 1% of the United States adult population, schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder characterized by maladaptive thought patterns and poor emotional responses (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Common symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, such as paranoia; hallucinations, such as hearing voices that are not there; disorganized or illogical patterns of thought; lack of emotion; and lack of motivation. Individuals with schizophrenia are often portrayed in media sources ranging from newspapers to feature films as burdens on society and dangers to others (Baker, 2012). In popular culture, the term “schizophrenic” has become a synonym for “crazy,” “weird,” “dangerous,” and even “unfashionable” (Tripoli, 2012; Baker, 2012). The following review will examine how stigma and self-stigma are propagated as well as the effects of self-stigma on individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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