Document Type

Article

Disciplines

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

Understanding how stigmatized identities contribute to increased rates of depression and anxiety is critical to stigma reduction and mental health treatment. There has been little research testing multiple aspects of stigmatized identities simultaneously. In the current study, we collected data from a diverse, urban, adult community sample of people with a concealed stigmatized identity (CSI). We targeted 5 specific CSIs – mental illness, substance abuse, experience of domestic violence, experience of sexual assault, and experience of childhood abuse – that have been shown to put people at risk for increased psychological distress. We collected measures of the anticipation of being devalued by others if the identity became known (anticipated stigma), the level of defining oneself by the stigmatized identity (centrality), the frequency of thinking about the identity (salience), the extent of agreement with negative stereotypes about the identity (internalized stigma), and extent to which other people currently know about the identity (outness). Results showed that greater anticipated stigma, greater identity salience, and lower levels of outness each uniquely and significantly predicted variance in increased psychological distress (a composite of depression and anxiety). In examining communalities and differences across the five identities, we found that mean levels of the stigma variables differed across the identities, with people with substance abuse and mental illness reporting greater anticipated and internalized stigma. However, the prediction pattern of the variables for psychological distress was similar across the substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, and childhood abuse identities (but not sexual assault). Understanding which components of stigmatized identities predict distress can lead to more effective treatment for people experiencing psychological distress.

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Originally published in :

PLoS ONE 9(5): e96977. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096977

Copyright: © 2014 Quinn et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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