BACKGROUND: Prejudicial beliefs, emotions, and behaviours cause discrimination against people labeled as mentally ill. This stigmatization is sometimes internalized by the patients, leading to self-stigmatization. Specific features and impacts of stigmatization and self-stigmatization in patients with bipolar illness are the subjects of this review.
METHOD: Studies were identified through PUBMED, Web of Science and Scopus databases as well as existing reviews. The search terms included "bipolar disorder", "stigma", "self-stigma" psychoeducation", "psychotherapy", "psychosocial treatment". Key articles listed in reference lists were searched.
RESULTS: Considerable recent evidence indicates that bipolar patients and their families are stigmatized, and that this stigmatization affects their quality of life as well as social functioning. The severity of stigmatization in bipolar disorder is greater than that in people with depression. There is also evidence of self-stigmatization which further decreases the quality of life. Stigmatization and self-stigmatization were shown to be one of the barriers that delay or prevent effective treatment, and thus exert adverse effects on the outcomes of bipolar disorder.
CONCLUSION: Stigma affects the experience of illness as well as social functioning in patients with bipolar disorder. The impact of stigma on the lives and treatment outcomes of patients with bipolar disorder mandates intensive effort of mental health research and policy to address this problem. Much has been done against the stigmatization of the mentally ill. But the fight against stigma remains a fundamental objective of health programs for mental health.