A number of psychiatric patients experience stigma connected to prejudices about mental disorders. It has been shown that stigma is most harmful when it is internalized. Most of the studies were performed on individuals either with psychoses or with mood disorders, and hence, there are almost no studies with other diagnostic categories. The goals of this research were to identify factors that are significantly related to self-stigma in patients with anxiety disorders and to suggest possible models of causality for these relationships.
A total of 109 patients with anxiety disorders and possible comorbid depressive or personality disorders, who were admitted to the psychotherapeutic department participated in this study. All patients completed several psychodiagnostic methods, ie, the Internalized Stigma of Mental Illness Scale, Temperament and Character Inventory-Revised Version, Adult Dispositional Hope Scale, Dissociative Experiences Scale, Beck Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition, and Clinical Global Impression (also completed by the senior psychiatrist).
The overall level of self-stigma was positively associated with a comorbid personality disorder, more severe symptomatology, more intense symptoms of anxiety and depression, and higher levels of dissociation and harm avoidance. Self-stigma was negatively related to hope, reward dependence, persistence, self-directedness, and cooperativeness. Multiple regression analysis showed that the most significant factors connected to self-stigma are harm avoidance, the intensity of depressive symptoms, and self-directedness. Two models of causality were proposed and validated. It seems that the tendency to dissociate in stress increases the probability of development of self-stigma, and this relationship is entirely mediated by avoidance of harm. Conversely, self-directedness lowers the probability of occurrence of self-stigma, and this effect is partly mediated by hope.
Patients with anxiety disorders accompanied with or without comorbid depressive or personality disorders may suffer from self-stigma. Individuals with greater sensitivity to rejection and other socially aversive stimuli are prone to the development of self-stigma. Other personality factors, such as hopeful thinking and self-acceptance serve as factors promoting resilience concerning self-stigma.