The labeling paradox: Stigma, the sick role, and social networks in mental illness
Does the growing number of psychiatric disorder diagnoses have an effect on people with mental illnesses? According to this study, as definitions of mental illnesses become broader, people who show signs of depression and other common mental illnesses are less likely to evoke a supportive response from friends and family members as are people with other severe mental disorders.
The author studied interviews conducted with 165 individuals with a range of mental health disorders, who were undergoing treatment for the first time. She found that those with more socially-accepted and commonplace mental illnesses, such as depression and mild mood disorders, did not receive strong reactions to their conditions from family members, friends, or others with whom they came in contact. As a result, their support networks may be less willing to take on caregiver responsibilities or to excuse them when their behavior deviates from what is considered normal. This study also found that diagnosing someone with a severe mental illness that is more outwardly recognizable such as schizophrenia and the manic phase of bipolar disorder can lead to a higher amount of rejection and discrimination by acquaintances and strangers while at the same time creating a stronger social support system among close friends and family.