ADHD & The Burden Of Stigma
Stigma: Social disgrace or public disapproval resulting from identification with a mental health condition.
There is almost always a burden of stigma to be endured by any person with a mental health disorder or issue. It matters not whether the individual has a diagnosis. It is a rare disorder that leaves the person afflicted with no sense of lowered self esteem which leads to self stigmatization. The truth is that a diagnosis, in some cases improves that situation.
A diagnosis that is made public, however, has the potential to increase stigmatization. Due in large part to the persistent myths that people with Mental health disorders are somehow less intelligent or less emotionally resilient, the stigma that occurs when one is diagnosed with a mental health disorder or issue can be very traumatizing.
While the stigma attached to ADHD may not seem as obvious to outsiders as that attached to other disorders, the situation plays a large part in making the stigmatization quite effective and often seemingly insurmountable.
Many people with ADHD suffer being identified in a bullying manner by their peers, as people with uniquenesses that set them apart from those peers. The fact that they have most certainly already self-identified that they are unique gives the stigmatization a foothold in the victims self awareness from where it can begin work to effectively erode the subjects self esteem.
Thus, stigmatization turns into a group effort with, sadly, the victims own self assessment being part of the bullying group. From this point on, it becomes harder to redirect the victims personal opinions of themself and to re-inflate their sense of self worth. There will be many examples of value that can be shown to them, but those examples of worth will be discounted because they did not stand out enough for the victim or their peers to recognize.
Verbally identifying value in the victim of stigmatization in the context of explaining their value is not enough, that aspect of value must be shown to be valuable in the context of the situation in which that aspect occurs.
For example, it is not enough to point out that a person is creative artistically when trying to bolster their self worth, their artistic endeavors must be acknowledged at the time they are encountered and each time they are encountered.
Once stigmatized, the persons self esteem may become like a basket that has been punctured. One must continue to fill the basket as the contents leak out, until the hole becomes plugged. If one does not, the hole becomes larger and the level of self esteem is lowered more and more rapidly.
Therapy is an excellent place to start, whether stigmatization has begun or not. The therapist can assess the individuals resilience to stigmatization and assess possible damage that has already occurred. A therapist can also help the individual build up an arsenal of tools to help them combat their own self esteem problems and to deal with the kind of bullying that one might expect to encounter in a life that is tempered with ADHD.
In short, stigmatization is something that is done to ones self esteem by ones self or others. The effects not only make for difficulty in life, but can also impact, negatively, the symptoms of ADHD and their impact on ones life, through added stress. Thus, a circular negative motion is created as the stigma causes an increase in negative effects and those negative effects cause a lowering of self esteem which leads to more stigmatization, and it continues.
Fortunately for some, there are those who seem to be able to endure the uniqueness of having ADHD and even build up their self esteem by treating their differences as notoriety, a sort of fame for which they congratulate themselves. These people seem to be able to endure the peer assessments that would stigmatize others, and even, to some extent, enjoy the attention that this brings.
For the most part, a person with ADHD who is unprepared and without counsel will have their resilience worn down and will eventually suffer stigmatization. Learning to be aware of ones abilities and value is the best preparation for a healthy and happy life with ADHD.