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J Nerv Ment Dis. 2010 Feb;198(2):150-3. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181cc43b5.

Implicit self-stigma in people with mental illness.

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  • 1Joint Research Programs in Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL, USA.


People with mental illness often internalize negative stereotypes, resulting in self-stigma and low self-esteem ("People with mental illness are bad and therefore I am bad, too"). Despite strong evidence for self-stigma's negative impact as assessed by self-report measures, it is unclear whether self-stigma operates in an automatic, implicit manner, potentially outside conscious awareness and control. We therefore assessed (i) negative implicit attitudes toward mental illness and (ii) low implicit self-esteem using 2 Brief Implicit Association Tests in 85 people with mental illness. Implicit self-stigma was operationalized as the product of both implicit measures. Explicit self-stigma and quality of life were assessed by self-report. Greater implicit and explicit self-stigma independently predicted lower quality of life after controlling for depressive symptoms, diagnosis, and demographic variables. Our results suggest that implicit self-stigma is a measurable construct and is associated with negative outcomes. Attempts to reduce self-stigma should take implicit processes into account.

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