Stigmatised Health Issues: What Are We So Afraid Of?

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As progressive as we like to think our society is, there are still plenty of topics we have yet to allow into the open. Diseases such as bowel cancer, erectile dysfunction and mental health issues are all very much considered taboo subjects. This not only prevents sufferers from admitting they have a problem, it also prevents many from seeking help.

2930756340_9d86fe5600_zImage Source: Caitlin Regan

Bowel Problems

It’s not hard to guess why conditions of the bowel and colon are firmly established on the ‘unmentionable’ list. Symptoms caused by any disease associated with this particular part of the body are likely to be unpleasant.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is believed to affect between three and twenty percent of the population in varying degrees. Compare this with the fact that forty thousand people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year, and it becomes obvious that the these diseases are an integral part of many people lives. Despite this, we still won’t talk about them.


Sufferers of this chronic immune disorder endure frequent outbreaks of cracked, inflamed and scaly skin. The skin can flake easily and large patches are often difficult to hide. The general reaction to seeing this condition is to shy away, increasing the embarrassment of sufferers. With a range of treatments only offering limited improvement at best, this condition can affect the day-to-day living of those suffering from it. Indeed, one-third of sufferers admitted to limiting their social interactions because of psoriasis flare-ups.

Mental Health Disorders

Mental health is the big disorder we all associate with social stigma. Many of us have witnessed first hand the abuse and disrespect people with obvious cognitive handicaps experience in public places. But have any of us ever gone to their aid?

The problem with mental health is that it can affect anyone, at any age or stage in life. Yes, life-changing conditions such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder have a proven genetic component, but they also affect people with no family history of either disease. Panic attacks and anxiety disorders are as much a condition of the environment as genetics, and they might just as easily strike you or me as they would the person standing next to us. There are a wide variety of treatments available. details how Schizophrenia sufferers are supported in everyday life whilst the Panic Away Review gives a good indication of the level of relief available to sufferers of anxiety disorders.

What Are We Afraid Of?

This is the big question, and one that is difficult to answer rationally. None of these conditions are contagious, they might affect us just as easily as anyone else. The fact that they don’t is just luck of the draw. We are all so fearful of these diseases that we fail to talk about them, to educate each other, banish ignorance and bring them into the light of day. The reality is, this is the kindest thing we can do for sufferers. Treat them normally and hope others follow our example. At least then we know that we have done everything in our power to make the people living with these diseases feel better.

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