The challenges facing consumers with addiction or mental health issues are compounded when self-stigma mirrors social stigma. Thanks to misconceptions and lack of adequate public education about mental health and addiction issues, the consumer seeking recovery may find it almost impossible to get the help they need while also contributing to their own stigmatization.
If we were to break stigmas down into three basic components, it is easier to see the effects of self-stigma from the consumer’s perspective. Stigma happens when there is stereotyping (belief driven), forming prejudices (emotion driven), and finally discrimination (behavior driven).
The first component of self-stigma is stereotyping. This is widely considered to be a learned behavior within a social group. Whether ethically right or wrong, the ability to stereotype has been very effective in helping groups identify people quickly and efficiently. For the consumer living with addiction or mental illness, stereotyping can negatively create a perceived expectation of what lies ahead for them. Consumers can develop negative self-beliefs which can then feel more like character flaws. When the society stereotypes the consumer, the social stigma will transpire as negative belief responses to those perceived consumer weaknesses, such as believing the consumer is dangerous, incompetent, or weak.
The second component of stigma is created by forming prejudices. For the consumer, this translates into negative feelings that perhaps what society is believing must be correct. The negative outcomes for the consumer will show as low self-esteem and their overall non-capacity to function. For society, prejudices against those struggling with mental health and addiction are anger and fear based emotional responses to what is believed by the group to be true about the consumer.
The third component of stigma is finally discrimination. For the consumer, self-stigmatizing behaviors create fear and anger when pursuing those things society considers necessary for them to thrive. The consumer response to discrimination can look like an inability to maintain employment, secure housing, or maintain relationships. Consumers may also use avoidance when seeking help for fear of rejection. When society responds to consumers with addiction health issues it can come across as avoidance. Societal stigma can discriminate against consumers by withholding help, denying employment or housing opportunities.
Stigmas as nothing new, in fact “Stigmas about mental illness seem to be widely endorsed by the general public in the Western world and not limited to uninformed members of the public; even well-trained professionals from most mental health disciplines subscribe to stereotypes about mental illness”  
Fortunately, the push to educate the general public has shown great strides in how consumers facing social stigma challenges are treated on an individual level. But more education needs to be done to change the systems around the laws, resources, and social structures that still continue to maintain stigma.
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