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27-10-2010 | Mental health | Article

Personality traits linked to self-stigma in schizophrenia patients

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: Internalized stigma in patients with schizophrenia is associated with certain temperament and character traits, researchers have found.

"Stigma associated with mental illness is universal," comment Branka Aukst Margetic (University Hospital Center Zagreb, Croatia) and team. "It leads to rejection, discrimination, distress, and other burdens and is a major obstacle to the rehabilitation and reintegration of people with mental illness."

However, the researchers add that "it is unclear why some people with mental illness remain relatively unaffected by stigma, whereas others perceive stigma as more stressful and are demoralized, with often serious clinical consequences. Indeed, we know very little about the vulnerability to stigma and the extent to which stigma is experienced."

Furthermore, they say that most previous research has focused on public stigma, with relatively little attention paid to self-stigma - the internalization of stigmatizing ideas by mental health patients

To investigate whether temperament and character traits are associated with self-stigma in schizophrenia patients, the team studied 120 patients (70 men and 50 women) with the mental health disorder who had been clinically stable for at least 3 months.

The mean age of the patients was 33.9 years and the mean duration of illness was 7.9 years, the researchers note in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry.

All of the patients were assessed for self-stigma, personality dimensions, and psychopathology using the Internalized Stigma of Mental Illness (ISMI) scale, the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), and the Positive and Negative Symptom Scale (PNSS), respectively.

The researchers found that levels of harm avoidance, self-directedness, and persistence, as assessed using the TCI, correlated significantly with all subscales of the ISMI scale. Self-transcendence on the TCI correlated with the ISMI subscales of alienation, discrimination, and stigma resistance.

After accounting for age, psychopathology, length of illness, and number of hospitalizations, the team found that harm avoidance and self-directedness were the most significant predictors of internalized stigma. Harm avoidance accounted for most of the variance in the ISMI scale, at 13.6%.

Margetic and team conclude: "The findings suggest that the experience of self-stigma is related to personality dimensions."

They add that "clinicians should be aware of this issue and take it into consideration when communicating with patients with schizophrenia, as self-stigma has been associated with impaired recovery from mental illness."

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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