How does self stigma differ across people with psychiatric diagnoses and rheumatoid arthritis, and how does it impact on self-esteem and empowerment?

Elizabeth Corker, June Brown, Claire Henderson
Psychology, Health & Medicine 2016, 21 (8): 993-1005
Self stigmatising attitudes have been found in people who have psychiatric diagnoses, however, research assessing self stigma in physical illnesses is rare. It is known that receiving a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can affect a person's identity and self esteem. This study aimed to compare levels of self stigma, self esteem and empowerment between people diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses and people diagnosed with RA to establish whether self stigma, and specifically endorsement of negative stereotypes, is associated with self esteem and empowerment across these two groups. A total of 202 participants (psychiatric group n = 102; RA group n = 100) were interviewed using the Internalised Stigma of Mental Illness scale (ISMI), or the Internalized Stigma of Mental Illness scale- Rheumatoid Arthritis (ISMI-RA), the Index of Self Esteem (ISE) and the Mental Health Confidence Scale (MHCS). Overall, the psychiatric group had higher self stigma scores (2.5 vs. 2.2, p < .01), lower self esteem (48.7 vs. 36.8, p < .001) and lower empowerment scores (3.8 vs. 4.3, p < .001) than the RA group. However, sizable proportions of both groups had high self stigma scores. ISMI/ISMI-RA was associated with the ISE and the MHCS. The stereotype endorsement subscale of the ISMI/ISMI-RA was not related to self esteem or empowerment in either group. Interventions that aim to decrease self stigma and increase self esteem could focus on alienation.

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