Continuum Beliefs and Stigmatizing Attitudes towards Persons with Schizophrenia, Depression and Alcohol Dependence
Separation is a central step in the process of stigmatizing persons with mental disorders. This study examines whether belief in a continuum of symptoms from mental health to mental illness is associated with less stigmatizing attitudes.
In a representative population survey in Germany (n=3642), using case-vignettes of persons suffering from schizophrenia, depression or alcohol dependence, the study measured belief in a continuity of symptoms, emotional reactions and desire for social distance related to the person described in the vignette.
While 42% of respondents agreed in symptom continuity for depression, this percentage was 26% for schizophrenia and 27% for alcohol dependence. Continuum beliefs were associated in general with more positive emotional reactions and less desire for social distance. This relationship was strongest for schizophrenia, followed by alcohol dependence.
Continuum beliefs thus seem to be associated with less stigmatizing attitudes, particularly regarding schizophrenia and alcohol dependence. Educational information on the continuous nature of most psychopathological phenomena could usefully be integrated in anti-stigma messages.