Breaking the Cycle of Stigmatization: Managing the Stigma of Incontinence in Social Interactions

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Incontinence is a highly stigmatizing condition. This article explores the dynamics of stigmatization in interpersonal interactions from the perspective of both individuals who are stigmatized and individuals who are not stigmatized. When people who are stigmatized and nonstigmatized interact with each other, both experience threats to self-esteem, but for different reasons. Individuals who are stigmatized may experience self-esteem decrements because they feel that their group is devalued in the eyes of others. Those who are nonstigmatized may fear that their actions will be perceived as biased, thereby threatening their self-image as an unprejudiced person. Individuals who are stigmatized and nonstigmatized act in ways that make their worst fears more than likely come true. Ways that nurses can facilitate ending this cycle with patients who are incontinent are discussed.

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