Goffman showed that stigma is a social issue or problem which is assessed as a behavior, reputation or as an attribute which is disgraced in a certain way (Goffman 1963). This can be due to mental illness, sexual identity or irrational behavior. Stigma leads to rejection and perception as an undesirable stereotype in the society, instead of being considered as a normal and accepted person in the society (Goffman 1963).
People diagnosed or who at the risk of being diagnosed with a socially stigmatized condition find the stigma more fearful than the condition itself because they have the perception that the society will or may react negatively after learning of their condition (Joachim & Acorn 2000). Those at risk of social stigmatization may avoid seeking help from society and even others may avoid treatment. In the real world, society views those who are faced with a stigmatizing condition as people who are hard to approach. They are a threat to others and are unpredictable.
Stigmatized people may also fear that society will see them as incapable, lazy, inferior and weak (Joachim & Acorn 2000). They also fear to disclose their status to friends, family members and work colleagues in relation of being assisted or seeking help from the professionals. Despite the benefits that are associated with diagnostic labels of many stigmatized conditions (e.g. mental illness) the individual may face a negative self image because those in the society or around him or her think that the ideas associated with culture are associated with the person (Kelly & Field 1996).
Fear and the subsequent stigmatization can be caused by ignorance (Kelly & Field 1996). Most people who are faced with a stigmatized condition have a sense of inadequacy, shame and low self esteem, which may further the problem and lead to exclusion from society as a whole (Scambler 2004). They feel that their