Self-Stigma: What Is It and How Can You Overcome It

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From finding virtual therapy that takes insurance to opening up to friends and family, symptoms of self-stigma can be overcome with proper treatment.

There is a stigma surrounding mental health. Though the dichotomy surrounding mental health has become more positive, misconceptions associated with mental health still prevail. These stigmas placed on people with mental health issues can allow people to internalise these feelings and misconceptions surrounding their conditions. When these feelings are internalised, this leads to self-stigma. Though there are many treatments for self-stigma, including therapy options through your insurance, many people still suffer from these negative, internalised feelings. Today, we are going to be breaking down what exactly self-stigma is, how you can find help, and how your loved ones can better support you.

What Is Self-Stigma?

Internalising the stigmas surrounding mental health can be detrimental to your mental health.

Stigma is defined as a mark of shame or discredit of people with distinguishing characteristics or diseases. This leads to negative attitudes or discrimination against people. When people internalise the stigmas placed on them, this leads to something called self-stigma. With self-stigma and mental health, people may believe that they are responsible for their mental illness. Self-stigma can be categorised into four different types: stereotyping, alienation, social withdrawal, and discrimination.  

Stereotyping – With stereotyping, people may believe certain misconceptions about themselves that prevent them from living out their lives as normal. 

Alienation – For people with a mental illness, it can be difficult to find a true connection with the people around you if they are not familiar with your illness or do not feel the same emotions as you. Because of this, people with self-stigma may feel alienated from their peers as they feel shame about their mental illness. 

Social Withdrawal – Similar in a sense to alienation, when someone with a mental illness suffering from self-stigma feels out of place or disconnected from people, that can lead them to withdraw from the people around them.

Discrimination – When the stigma surrounding mental health is internalised, this can lead people to believe that others are constantly looking at them with a discriminatory lens. Even if the people around them are not discriminating against them, this can still lead to feelings like people do not take them seriously or that people do not want any form of relationship with them.

How Does Self-Stigma Effect Your Life?

Self-stigma can lead to self-sabotage and rumination

The symptoms of self-stigma can lead to damage to careers and relationships with others. People who suffer from self-stigma oftentimes feel like a failure. In their career, these feelings of failure can not only impact their job performance on a day-to-day basis but can also affect their career growth. They may not open themselves up to new opportunities, whether that be more challenging responsibilities at their current job or the potential for a new position. In their relationships, the feeling of isolation and loneliness can cause them to cut off their relationship with their friends and family. Additionally, they may not pursue new relationships—be it romantic or platonic—because they feel like a burden. 

Self-stigma can also lead to many negative effects on someone’s mental health. Self-stigma can make it difficult to treat and overcome symptoms. This can show through increased feelings of depression and loneliness while facing reduced self-esteem.  Among these feelings, people suffering from self-stigma may also experience these symptoms:

Self-sabotage – In people suffering from self-stigma, it is common for them to self-sabotage. Because they may already have feelings of failure associated with their mental health, they may stop taking their medications or damage their relationships with the people around them because they feel like they cannot relate with those people. 

Rumination – Ruminating about negative thoughts is a common occurrence in people who suffer from self-stigma. Because they often withdraw from others or feel alienated, they may spend their time thinking about the negative stigma they feel.

Suicidal thoughts – Especially when left untreated, self-stigma can lead to suicidal ideation. They can feel like a burden to their families and friends, which causes them to withdraw even further from their peers. When self-stigma goes unrecognized and untreated, it can be life-threatening. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to get help to overcome self-stigma. Let’s discuss how you can start treating self-stigma for yourself or a loved one.

How Can I Overcome Self-Stigma?

With proper treatment, including virtual therapy options, you can overcome self-stigma

Feelings of self-stigma can and should be addressed. To best approach self-stigma to reduce these feelings, it is important to alter the beliefs of your stigmas and find healthy coping mechanisms. This can be done through many methods including finding virtual therapy options that take your insurance and confiding in your peers. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some ways that you can find help.

Seek Help From A Therapist

While it may feel difficult to seek professional help, speaking with a therapist can significantly help reduce feelings associated with self-stigma. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in particular, is a type of therapy that can help you overcome negative behaviour patterns. When you start working with your therapist, be open with them about your symptoms. Your therapist will work with you to find coping strategies that work best for you to treat self-stigma. 

If you are looking for in-person therapy options that accept your insurance, you can go to your insurance provider’s website to find a therapist within your network. Especially in the post-COVID-19 world, virtual therapy options are becoming more accessible. Many online platforms can help pair you with a therapist that specialises in the type of mental illness you are experiencing but keep in mind that not all of these online therapy services accept insurance. To find a virtual therapist that accepts your insurance, you may first need to find a therapist in your area and ask if they can accommodate remote sessions. 

Consider The Facts

When trying to overcome feelings of self-stigma, considering the facts are crucial. Oftentimes, the thoughts they have about themselves are untrue. Write down all of the feelings and thoughts you have ruminated on and challenge your negative feelings with the facts around you. Consider all of the relationships in your life and 

Share Your Feelings With Friends and Family

As we mentioned, self-stigma can lead to isolation and withdrawal. Finding your support system is crucial when trying to overcome these feelings. When you choose to inform people about your symptoms, they can stand as an outlet for you to talk through your feelings. This connection can not only serve as an outlet for you to express your feelings, but it can also help you overcome feelings of loneliness. 



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