Social stigma


What Is Social Stigma?

Social stigma is defined as an individual or group being disapproved of, judged, or mistreated because of a characteristic, either perceived or based upon something which the individual has no control of. This stigma separates these individuals from other members of the society. Social stigma varies in different cultures, as well as amongst different groups of people in a particular culture.

Stigma is a Greek word that originally referred to a marking or tattoo that was burned or cut into the skin of slaves, traitors, or criminals. It made it so they could be visibly identified by others as unjust members of society. People with these markings were avoided, especially when they were in public.

Types of Social Stigma

There are several types of social stigmas, and they commonly occur in different forms. The most common types of stigmas include:

  • Physical: Individuals with physical disabilities or deformities that are considered ugly or devalued within their culture.
  • Behavioural: Individuals who fail to meet the social norms set in place by a society. This can include being perceived as right or wrong, dishonest, weak-willed, strong-headed, extreme political activity, addiction, imprisonment, unemployment, suicidal, mental illness, and more.
  • Intellectual: Individuals with lower intelligence levels or learning disabilities. This can include diseases such as down’s syndrome, as well as conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and more.
  • Sexual: Individuals with sexual preferences that are considered unusual or forbidden. This can include homosexuality, bi-sexuality, transgender, and more.
  • Group: This is a group of people who are judged for the race, religion, caste, tribe, or other group that deviates from the standards set in their society.

The Six Dimensions of Stigma

Stigma has been identified into six separated dimensions. These allow one to better understand the underlying concepts of which stigma is defined. The six dimensions of stigma include:

  1. Peril: The danger others perceive the stigma presents to them
  2. Origin: If others think the stigma was present at birth, deliberate, or accidental
  3. Aesthetics: The reaction of others toward the stigma that are positive or negative (approving/disapproving)
  4. Disruptiveness: How the stigma and the reaction other people have to it adversely affect social interactions
  5. Course of the mark: The increase, decrease, or stability of the stigma over time
  6. Concealable: The extent of which others can see/perceive the stigma

The Effects of Social Stigma

Stigma holds several negative effects from those who have a stigma attached to them. Stigma has shown to reduce self-esteem and create social isolation. Social stigma can also interfere with educational and career opportunities. Social distancing is a term used to describe when people are unwilling to socialise with another person based on upon stigma.

The discrimination associated with stigma has a significant impact on a person’s self-confidence and quality of life. It often is accompanied by ridicule, and oftentimes physical and/or psychological abuse from others.

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Stigma

What is a stigma of mental illness?

This involves individuals who are discriminated against based on any mental illness they might have. It relates to their state of mind and context of character rather than their physical appearance.

What is addiction stigma?

This refers to the social stigma attached to individuals who have a substance abuse or addiction problem. These are negative perceptions about addicts that often ruin family relationships, as well as prevent them from seeking treatment.

What is self-stigma?

Self-stigma refers to individuals with internal negative beliefs and attitudes about themselves that keep them from seeking out relationships with others, social support, or treatment for mental health conditions.

What is public stigma?

This involves the attitudes and discrimination by members of a society towards an individual or group based upon various negative beliefs.

External Links

Mental Health Stigma: Society, Individuals, and the Profession, Brian K. Ahmedani, Ph.D., MSW, NCBI

Social Stigma – Main Theories and Contributions – The Six Dimensions of Stigma, LiquiSearch

Definitions of Stigma and Discrimination, Disability Rights California

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