The battle of self-stigma in mental illness

Stigma is a huge part of the battle for those wanting to discuss mental health openly. The definition of stigma is a disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person. Normally this is caused by someone else’s view on the circumstance, quality or person, however just recently I have read a lot about self-stigma and this is what I want to discuss today, mainly because I believe I am guilty of this too.

Now I know this might sound slightly strange considering I write about my mental health quite openly. I am, though, nowhere near as open in real life about some aspects of my mental health. My family for example know about my depression but not about my Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD or formerly BPD) and this is down to how I see the condition in myself.

Please don’t get me wrong here; if someone told me they had EUPD I would not think negatively of them. I would actually, probably, be open with them about my own diagnosis. Yet if someone was to ask me for my diagnosis I would be reluctant to mention the EUPD unless I really had to or felt comfortable that the person I was talking to would not be negative towards me for that diagnosis. This is for me a form of self-stigma and helps fuel the stigma surrounding a personality disorder. It is something I feel ashamed of and that really isn’t right.

So why do I feel this about my EUPD diagnosis? I am after all much more open about my anxiety and depression diagnoses. Well I think it comes down to the stigma that there seems to be with mental health professionals surrounding personality disorders. I have heard of mental health professionals not treating symptoms of those with BPD as they see it as part of the “manipulative” nature that the disorder supposedly has (I hugely disagree with this myth). I have also had experiences where I was told that, because I have this diagnosis, I am manipulative and other myths that surround EUPD/BPD. Therefore, if a health professional is going to act in this way, how can I expect someone without the knowledge of the condition to act?

So what can I do to change this? I hope that by writing this blog and attending events linked to mental health I will gradually gain the confidence to not only talk about my diagnosis but also some of the symptoms I have from my diagnoses. I also hope that by writing and campaigning against the stigma surrounding mental health, the stigma surrounding personality disorders will reduce. This will hopefully make it easier for those of us who have them, as a diagnosis, to discuss what we deal with on a day-to-day basis.

3 thoughts on “The battle of self-stigma in mental illness

  1. Pingback: The battle of self-stigma in mental illness | Combating Stigma

  2. wingsofresilience

    Hi, I’m Hilde and I have bipolar disorder type II. After several painful events, my diagnosis, and having to deal with other peoples judgmental attitudes, I just fell completely apart. But, I’m somehow still here, and it needs to start feeling worth it.
    I believe that most of us are still not completely free from self-stigma, and that is because, even though we put our best efforts to be open about it, we still live under a social platform in which our condition limits our chances to live a “normal” life or to function as a socially productive human being. I totally agree with you on the fact that not even doctors are safe from stigma. I could feel how my own psychiatrist already build a negative stereotype about me. I was really easy to notice.
    Th only way to completely feel comfortable with ourselves is by acting upon all the issues that should stop surrounding mental illness.
    I’m building a website that aims to tackle all this issue and enhance collaboration and creative advocacy to put and end to stigma. I will add increasing content as the website develops. I’m starting with a blog, but also with a forum in which subscribers can participate in different forums, even having the freedom of choosing a topic for discussion. Discussion forums can be about (1) sharing experiences, information and support (2) a creative space for advocacy brainstorming put into actions.

    Let me know if you are interested. Believe me, reading (listening) to other people’s stories really changes the way you feel about everything.


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