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Interrelationships Between Types of Stigma

Structural, social, and self-stigma serve to reinforce one another, compounding impact upon individuals.
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Structural stigma appears when particular policies of large entities (e.g., governments, companies, schools) together, with their institutional practices and norms, serve to reinforce stigmatizing beliefs and systems. Such policies and practices perpetuate inequities by restricting persons’ rights or opportunities based on qualities and conditions that may be intrinsic or primarily culturally or environmentally mediated. People working within these systems often do not intend to practice bias and discrimination, yet is it a typical feature of the social, economic, and political systems in which they operate.

When social stigma repeatedly touches on a stigmatized personal attribute, it can influence individuals to take a negative view of their own identity. Internalized self-stigma compounds the person’s difficulty in overcoming the effects of social and structural stigma, leaving them less willing to seek and continue treatment and resulting in worse outcomes.

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