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Dealing with Depression-Related Stigma

When clinical psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, was diagnosed with depression, she was relieved. But soon after the comfort and relief dissipated, she felt shame and guilt and even started reconsidering her profession.

Serani writes poignantly about this so-called self-stigma in her beautiful, information-packed book, Living with Depression:

…I felt inadequate and embarrassed by my diagnosis. I knew that society feared anything that strayed from the norm, and the idea of being seen as different, disabled, or dysfunctional really frightened me. I didn’t tell anyone about my depression, kept my medication hidden in a bedside dresser, and kept secret my feelings of failure. I even went so far as to believe that I should hang up my shingle as a practicing psychologist because, clearly, I was incapable of taking care of myself as a person. How could I take care of others as a professional? Despite the fact that I was a psychologist educated in the mind, brain and body, the misconceptions about mental illness shoehorned themselves into my life.

Fortunately, as Serani started feeling better, these negative thoughts and feelings went away.

In her book Serani outlines other types of stigma, and provides tips for dealing with them.

8 Comments to
Dealing with Depression-Related Stigma

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  1. Very good article. Thanks for the post.

  2. Enjoyed reading your article here. Part of the mission of individuals, groups and good therapists is to reduce the stigma associated with depression and its great to see Deborah writing about this and adding her public support. She is to be commended showing a unique strength that is required to endure depression. I believe that the stigma surrounding depression arises from living in a culture where feelings of vulnerability are considered weak and unacceptable. This is especially true for many men who are taught “big boys don’t cry”. Sadly, pharmaceutical companies carry much of the blame too having expended enormous resources in advertising so that the public will come to see all depression as a medical illness.

    The key is to realize that your individual worth and goodness is a function of who you are, not what you do.
    I would like to offer your readers an affirmation from my work Elevated Therapy to help.

    “I…………… (say your name), am who I am and am not defined by how much money I make or what job or career I do. Who I am is a creative spiritual being who is on this earth to grow in love and wisdom. And through that I transcend other people`s fears and limitations. And so it is”.

    Repeating this affirmation will help you to redefine your identity in non-achievement terms. It helps to release the toxic feelings of blame, shame or guilt which is so part of the stigma of depression. It helps you to stop judging yourself as “weak” or “broken”. You can learn to love yourself, heal yourself and affirm your self-worth and essential goodness.

  3. What I would one day like to see:

    “Dealing with Stigmatizers”

    Once we have named them, we can address them.

  4. Thank you for this post.

    I too would like to see a post on Harold’s subject.

  5. Excellent write-up,straight from the heart.It is really very sad,those who feel depressed are told to go out & meet people,but their very condition keeps people at bay.Best would be to join support groups of like-minded people & then graduate from there on.

  6. It’s great to advise people of how to go about “disclosing” information however it is not only up to the person with the condition to decide who and when others know these things if that person is in a relationship. Having recently had to deal with depression, my partner sort support from work colleges and family, he is uneducated about depression and disclose sensitive and personal information in an inappropriate context. It would would be great to get advice of how I now deal with this situation.

  7. It’s interesting to see here how subtley the stigmatizing effect of labels can be perpetuated. Even in an obviously well-intended article such as this, the distinction between the medication taken for depression and “medical prescriptions” clearly implies that depression is not a medical condition.

  8. It is the stigma from healthcare professionals that has delayed many of my physical diagnoses. Whenever I have a physical concern requiring medical attention I am frequently reminded “well, you do have a history of depression”. That is always the default answer regardless of my physical symptoms. I’m not sure how to get around it. I am currently stuck because my psychiatrist is convinced I have something organic/physical going on and my PCP is convinced it is all psych. Many tests/labs have been run but all inconclusive. With all this I am becoming depressed which is disappointing because I have been in remission for 5 years. How do I find healthcare that won’t label me based on my history?



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