Internalized stigma in adults with early phase versus prolonged psychosis

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Abstract

Aim:

Although internalized stigma is associated with negative outcomes among those with prolonged psychosis, surprisingly little work has focused on when in the course of one’s illness stigma is internalized and the impact of internalization on symptoms or social functioning over the course of the illness. Therefore, this study investigated whether (1) internalized stigma is greater among those later in the course of psychosis and (2) whether internalized stigma has a stronger negative relationship with social functioning or symptoms among those with prolonged compared to early phase psychosis.

Methods:

Individuals with early phase (n = 40) and prolonged psychosis (n = 71) who were receiving outpatient services at an early-intervention clinic and a VA medical center, respectively, completed self-report measures of internalized stigma and interview-rated measures of symptoms and social functioning.

Results:

Controlling for education, race and sex differences, internalized stigma was significantly greater among those with prolonged psychosis compared to early phase. Internalized stigma was negatively related to social functioning and positively related to symptoms in both groups. Furthermore, the magnitude of the relationship between cognitive symptoms and internalized stigma was significantly greater among those with early phase. Stereotype endorsement, discrimination experiences and social withdrawal also differentially related to symptoms and social functioning across the 2 samples.

Conclusions:

Findings suggest that internalized stigma is an important variable to incorporate into models of early psychosis. Furthermore, internalized stigma may be a possible treatment target among those with early phase psychosis.

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