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Overcoming the Stigma of a Mental Disorder

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It has occurred to me when I go to my shrink's office and have to deal with the office staff (who know my name by now), that they must wonder why I am there. I am sure that they do not know that I am being treated for obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD, just as they don't know why any other patient is being seen. And so what if they did know? Would that be so terrible? Well, it really wouldn't be so horrible, but it would be an invasion of my privacy. For all I know they might know something due to an oversight in paperwork.

This brings me to the stigma so often associated with mental disorders. It is true that some disorders are more stigmatized than others, and I won't venture to guess which ones are in the top 10. Mental disorders can be just as painful and harmful as physical ones, in many ways. That is my opinion. People with physical ailments will usually talk about them, but people with mental ailments will not; exceptions may be close family members and friends. I believe that those of us who have some sort of mental disorder are afraid of being called crazy, which is the ultimate stigmatizing word.

We know of course that we are functioning human beings, and beneath it all, are like everyone else. Yesterday, my shrink said she doesn't think I have clinical OCD, but perhaps something along those lines. That is the way I understood her. She said, in so many words, that every human being has issues and accompanying defense mechanisms. She really stressed the importance of those defense mechanisms.

I do not know much about the history of diagnosing mental illnesses, and how they came to be viewed as something shameful. I do know that people who were considered rebellious, or who just did not fit in with the norms of a given society, were considered mentally ill, and perhaps still are in many places. Up until recently homosexuality was said to be a mental illness.

No matter what the ailment- be it mental, physical, or emotional- there is no need to inflict further harm by stigmatization.

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EmpowHER Guest

We will remain in disagreement, though I doubt were the topic rape, we would disagree. Calling it "stigma" empowers the prejudiced, disempowers the persons victimized by the word association.

I will agree with you that there are people who discriminate and call it "stigma," placing the onus on the victim of their prejudice. I will agree that victims can be persuaded to repeat that claim. I will not agree the claim is so.

"The woman's skirt was too short. She is at fault, not I." It is an interesting diversion, but it is not reality.

Today's "accepted" usage directs its prejudice at another group, but it is the identical prejudice, masked in the identical way, and defended tenaciously by those who accept the representation. I simply do not accept the association. I do not pass it on, I do not reinforce it, as did women, I refute it. I cannot say learning the lesson was easy, but seeing the effects of that claim on Jews in World War II, African Americans here and elsewhere, and survivors of sexual assault, I cannot direct it.

May 20, 2010 - 6:36pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

If only you can blindfold yourself and think it went away.

May 23, 2010 - 12:44am
EmpowHER Guest

in response to harold's comments, it is important to be realistic and acknowledge what is there, here "stigma on mental illness" and what negatively affects those in many aspects of their lives.

May 20, 2010 - 5:41pm
EmpowHER Guest

"Being open" is not how women (here) addressed the pretense of the "stigma" of rape. Women refuted it, forced us to address the real issues, the crime, violence, assault, the criminal. They forced us to end our assocation of that term, sadly only in that one regard. Where women are not empowered, the pretense is maintained.

Pretending any "stigma" harms (it has no other intention.) Internalizing any harms, Passing any along harms.

Who has the will to stop, stops. Sometimes it is difficult to muster that will, espeically in the face of so many cultural instrucitons to continue. But we can stop. We did it before, we can do it again.

May 20, 2010 - 11:30am

Personally, I try to stop this association, by being open.

May 20, 2010 - 10:53am
EmpowHER Guest

This brings me to the stigma so often associated with mental disorders.

You associated it, can you stop?

Harold A. Maio

May 20, 2010 - 7:02am
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