The stigma of mental illness: anticipation and attitudes among patients with epileptic, dissociative or somatoform pain disorder

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;19(2):123-9. doi: 10.1080/09540260701278879.


The aim of this study was to survey the attitudes of 101 consecutive in- and out-patients with epileptic, dissociative or somatoform pain disorders (mean age: 43 [+/-11] years; 58% female) from either the Department of Psychiatry or Neurology toward anticipated mental illness stigma. The patients were administered a modified 12-item version of Links Stigma Questionnaire. Nearly 60% of all 101 patients believe that "most people" would not allow a mental patient "to take care of their children", "most young women" would be "reluctant to date a man" who has been treated for a mental illness and "most employers would pass over" the application of a psychiatric patient in favour of another applicant. Fifty five percent of the respondents assume that "most people think less of a person who has been in a mental hospital" and over a half of all patients interviewed assert that the general population thinks that psychiatric patients are "less intelligent, less trustworthy and that their opinion is taken less seriously by others". Gender, age and education had no influence on the overall results. There is a high stigmatisation concerning psychiatry even in patients with epilepsy and somatoform/dissociative symptoms with psychiatric comorbidity. Fear of being stigmatized is more pronounced among somatoform pain patients as compared to patients suffering from epileptic or dissocative disorders, with particular reference to close personal relationships.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Austria
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services
  • Mentally Ill Persons / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Prejudice*
  • Psychological Distance
  • Rejection, Psychology
  • Self Disclosure
  • Set, Psychology*
  • Sick Role
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*
  • Stereotyping
  • Surveys and Questionnaires