Psychology and Psychiatry


Stigmatization - this is assignment by the surrounding society to someone of certain characteristics, most often of a negative orientation, according to external formal factors due to cultural practices, politics or personal psychological complexes. This phenomenon comes from the Greek word meaning stigma. So, for example, an individual with a diagnosis of mental disorder is often attributed to an excessive desire for violent actions or an inability to work productively.

Social stigma means a kind of connection between the infamous quality of society and the programmed attitude towards it. Due to the imposition of stereotypes, an individual becomes unable to lead a full life in society due to the deprivation of the right to recognition of society.

Some criminological concepts regard stigmatization as a result of either the process of imposing a country on a person who has committed a socially dangerous offense, the "stigma" of a criminal. An individual who once committed a wrongful act and is "branded" as a criminal, it is difficult to get rid of this "stigma" in the future. This phenomenon leads to the emergence of a whole layer of antisocial personalities.

Stigma theory

The core idea of ​​stigma was the key idea of ​​conflictology, which claims that actors often get along poorly with each other because they disagree about their own views and interests. At the same time, those in power have the opportunity to formulate their principles and beliefs in the norms that control institutional life, and successfully pin negative characteristics ("labels") on violators of accepted norms. In other words, supporters of the stigma theory are interested in the process, the consequence of which is the receipt by certain individuals of the stigma of deviants and the consideration by these individuals of their own behavior as deviant.

Supporters of the stigma theory G. Becker, E. Lemert and C. Erickson believe that in itself no act is essentially criminal or non-criminal. The negativity of an act is not determined by its content, but by its evaluation by others and the reaction to it.

In addition, deviant behavior is inherent in absolutely all people, having to do with violation of various norms. Proponents of the described theory reject the popular notion of the division of all mankind into "normal" and possessing some kind of pathologies. So, for example, many individuals drive with excess speed, commit petty theft, hide income, rowdy, arrange acts of vandalism after winning or losing their favorite football team, etc.

Adherents of the stigma theory call such actions primary deviation and define it as a behavior that violates social norms, but often eludes the attention of law enforcement agencies.

The theory of Becker’s stigma is briefly as follows: a deviant is an individual to whom society has attached a label, and deviant behavior refers to behavior that people have so designated.

Becker argued that, in practice, deviation is determined by the ability of social groups invested with power (for example, lawmakers) to impose other standards of behavior. He wrote that social groups form a deviation, because they follow the norms, the violation of which by society is considered a deviation. Also, they impose these rules on a certain part of the population, which is "labeled" by outsiders. His concept of stigma does not consider deviation as an offense committed by the subject, but rather as the result of other people applying the norms and sanctions against such an “offender”.

In addition, Becker emphasized the significant role of “champions of morality” organizing the so-called “crusades.” In cases where they triumph, a new system of rules is formed, which gives rise to the formation of new deviants.

Therefore, the theory of Becker stigmatization briefly represents an explanation of how a certain attitude towards individuals is developed. This is what distinguishes the theory of stigma from concepts that focus on the characteristics of subjects that contribute to deviations.

Stigma of society

It is believed that stigmatization of society is created on the foundation of one main quality, which will be indicative, and a set of qualities, listed on the basis of the presence of the main one. This is confirmed by the following examples of stigma. There is a myth that the female sex drives a car badly. This myth is a form of stigmatization, which in some cases is associated with gender discrimination. As practice proves the opposite - not every woman has a poor control of a vehicle, but an established stereotype implies this.

The whole world claims that "Russian alcoholics" - this statement is an example of transnational stigma, which is based on differences in cultural characteristics. Due to the negative orientation and categoricalness, this statement is considered stigmatization.

Most Germans are considered fascists. In this case, the collective responsibility that is unacceptable by humanistic principles is justified by the actions of individual subjects and the policies of the state during world war.

Social stigma often leads to discrimination. In other words, it leads to real actions that restrict the rights of a particular group. At the same time, in a number of civilized states, pronounced stigmatization and the discrimination caused by it are either prohibited at the legislative level or condemned by sociocultural principles. Virtually any society is saturated with stigma.

Examples of stigma show the attribution of qualities to certain categories of the population that are not necessarily characteristic of them. People from the provinces are considered to be less cultured and educated; people with HIV are biased, since most are convinced that they have multiple sexual contacts with various partners.

Social stigma can be positive. For example, a boxer athlete is “praised” for unusually sound thoughts for an individual who has devoted his life to sports. After all, if there is power, then the mind is not necessary. Such "positive" stigmas are no less offensive than labels of pronounced negative orientation.

In this case, it should not be categorized as any ironic or insulting definitions. For example, you can often hear an insult at your own address in a crowded transport. However, this will not be stigma. For the emergence of stigmatization, two components are necessary: ​​a synthesis and transfer of a "negative" quality or inability from individual members of the population to all members of this category.

Social stigma has its own types:

- cultural stigmatization, which is the imposition of social labels that are rooted in sociocultural norms or world culture (for example, all Chukchi people are unsteady);

- personal (internal) stigma, is a prejudice against one's own person, based on belonging to something (for example, the statement "I'm fat" is peculiar to women);

- institutional stigma, is a stigma established at the legislative level (for example, a person who has a criminal record).

The concept of stigma developed in the social sciences by E. Hoffman. He first introduced the concept of stigma in 1963.

The theory of stigmatization of Hoffmann is outlined in his work "Stigma. Notes on the ability to handle defective identity." The phenomenon of sexual labels was studied by his colleague K. Plummer, he called his research “Sexual stigma: interactionist approach”. Analyzing religious movements, the concept of stigma was used by V. Lipp in his work "Stigma and Charisma".

Hoffmann's theory of stigma is based on his belief that an individual with stigma can use it while gaining secondary benefits, for example, justifying its own failures. If, due to a number of factors, a subject with stigma loses it, then he can reveal that he has learned something, or come to some understanding, for example, that living with a certain label is not the most terrible defect of a person.

According to his theory, the normal perception and attitude towards a subject with stigma is:

- benevolent social behavior, designed to weaken and smooth out the presence of stigma in a person;

- various forms of discrimination of such a person;

- generalization of stigma, which consists in attributing to an individual additional flaws, on the basis of the presence of a single defect (for example, a visually impaired person is often addressed much louder than usual, as if he also does not hear well), or additional potentials (sixth sense, beyond perception sensitivity);

- the formulation of a “concept” of stigma, which is a kind of ideology designed to “open the eyes” to the danger that such an individual bears, in some cases, in order to justify his own unfriendly attitude towards him.

E. Hoffman notes that a stigmatized subject often does not understand what kind of feelings “really” other people feel about him. Therefore, for them, each new interaction is always an uncertainty, since they are either recognized or rejected. The stigmatized subject must tirelessly think about the impression made on the social environment.

Stigma in sociology

The sixties of the last century signify the intensification of sociologists' interest in the phenomenon of stigmatization. In the period from the mid-sixties to the early nineties, many scientific studies came into being that explored a wide range of deviant behavior of individuals. Sociologists of this period viewed “norm” and “deviation” not as independent and isolated phenomena from each other, but as “antagonistic”, which are found in complex processes of interaction between members of social groups. Based on the described approach, the question "Who becomes stigmatized and why?" relegated to the background, and the question “Who puts the stigma, labeling, what grounds exist for this?” comes to the front.

Stigma problems are the consequences of branding. Since its outcome is always social labeling, that is, the selection of an individual or a group of individuals from the community, followed by opposition to his or their other members of the community. The final stage of stigma will be complete or partial rejection of the community of the branded individual or group of people. Often, social labeling becomes a factor that determines, on its basis, the programming and self-programming of the behavioral response of a branded individual.

It is believed that the term "stigma" originated in ancient Greece. Initially, it was applied to body tattoos, which meant either dependent or socially disapproving status of the branded. Stigma previously acted as a conditional sign of public stigmatization of individuals, a factor of social positioning, an indicator of social position in human society. Stigma is an attribute of a social nature, which indicates the low status of a person or group of individuals. The presence of stigma by others is regarded as a so-called “vice”, and the stigma carrier is considered an individual deserving of censure, often even punishment. Any natural characteristic or social quality can be a reason for branding. Consequently, stigma is, first of all, the social characteristic of an individual (group) formed by the social environment in which the action takes place.

It is believed that stigma can be of three types: neutral, positive (affirming the dignity of the individual) and negative (depriving the individual of merit and merit).

Stigma as a social phenomenon in most cases is characterized by a negative orientation and is based on the rejection by society of any pronounced distinctive external features, for example: the appearance of the individual, the qualities of his character, the specific features of his behavioral reactions. The “specificity” of an individual often does not constitute a danger to the surrounding society, but this does not prevent his stigmatization, which leads to his condemnation in various forms of expression, the attribution of his personality traits or personality traits to deviant behavior. As a result, stigma affects the behavior of the individual and his self-consciousness, either unjustifiably humiliating or exalting it on the basis of purely external signs. By this, branding is dangerous for individuals, since it negatively affects their social independence and can provoke deviance. In addition, stigma is not safe for society. After all, the labeling of individual groups affects social morality and the humane attitudes of society, causes conflicts within society. Consequently, the phenomenon of stigmatization is a kind of vicious circle, because social stigma and fear of being punished causes psychological and social alienation, which equally harms both the individual and the society. This is the problem of stigma.

Stigma in psychiatry

Stigma in psychiatry is defined as a sign of contempt and distrust that separates the individual from the rest. It always leads to negative unrest and, above all, provokes the emergence of a sense of shame. Mental illnesses are still perceived as conniving at their own whims and desires, as weakness. Stigmatization of patients often extends to descendants, causing emotional trauma not only to adults, but also to their children, as well as to the rest of the patient’s family.

The World Psychiatric Association recognized the fact that a psychiatric diagnosis is a stigma that impedes social adjustment and the exercise of the rights provided by law.

In accordance with the information of the World Health Organization, the refusal to grant individuals with a history of mental illnesses, socio-cultural, economic, civil-political rights, violation of elementary freedoms is characteristic of most states of the world. Such violations are observed not only exclusively within medical institutions, but also beyond their borders. Subjects with mental disabilities are subject to stigmatization, cruel and derogatory treatment. In addition, individuals who are mentally healthy can also be discriminated when they are mistaken for people with mental illness or who have had such illnesses in the past.

Social stigma is always characterized by emotional coloring and is often completely unjustified by reality, which is the key difference of social stigma from invented stereotypes. A significant example of stigma is the majority opinion that alcoholics are much less dangerous than schizophrenics and homosexuals.

Stigmatization of patients with mental disorders and subsequent discrimination are the most serious health problems.