From attitudes to behavioral intentions: Stigma and bipolar disorder

Lisa D. Hawke, Sagar V. Parikh


Background: Bipolar disorder (BD) is a highly stigmatized condition, which has many negative repercussions. Most stigma-reduction interventions aim to reduce stigmatizing attitudes in their target groups. However, attitudinal changes do not necessarily translate into changes in discriminatory behavior. To bridge the gap between attitudes and behaviors, the current study examines the stigmatizing attitudes associated with behavioral intentions, i.e., the willingness to enter into contact with individuals with bipolar disorder.

Methods: A sample of 94 participants completed the Social Distance Scale (SDS) and the Mental Illness Stigma Scale (MISS). Participants were individuals with BD, their friends/family members, healthcare professionals students, and the general public. This study presents baseline data from a research project testing the anti-stigma intervention.

Results: SDS is significantly correlated with four categories of stigmatizing attitudes measured by the MISS: treatability, relationship disruption, hygiene, and anxiety. Greater knowledge about BD is associated with significantly less desire for social distance and more positive attitudes regarding treatability, anxiety and recovery. After controlling for socio-
demographic variables and knowledge, only two categories of stigmatizing attitudes predict the desire for social distance: relationship disruption and hygiene, which explain 20% of the variance.

Conclusions: Combatting stigma in BD requires a change in behaviors, not just attitudes. We explored the link between stigmatizing attitudes and the desire to interact with affected individuals and found a significant association. The desire to maintain social distance from people with BD was predicted by stigmatizing about regarding their relationships and hygiene habits. By targeting stigmatizing beliefs about relationship disturbances and hygiene in BD, it may be possible to further strengthen anti-stigma initiatives.


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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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