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4 Minutes Read

3 Stigmatized Experiences To Bring Up in Therapy

When an important part of your life involves a topic mainstream society considers taboo, you may be wary of who you turn to for support. Because of internalized stigma, many people avoid discussing these experiences in the therapy room, missing out on the confidential, nurturing space that can be a source of help.

You should be able to bring your full self and your whole story into therapy — including the parts where you have feelings of guilt or shame. Here are three examples of stigmatized experiences that you don’t have to hide anymore.

1. Having a “difficult” mental health diagnosis

As more people become educated about mental health, talking about some mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression is becoming normalized. Other mental health diagnoses, however, such as borderline personality disorder, are frequently misunderstood, and the people living with them unfairly judged.

Borderline personality disorder involves struggling to maintain even moods, emotional reactions, and understandings of self. When exacerbated or untreated, the symptoms of borderline personality disorder can be extreme, especially as they pertain to interpersonal relationships — leading to stereotyping people with borderline personality disorder as “difficult”, “dramatic”, or “needy”.

The truth is, many of the attributes people with borderline personality disorder are shamed for are things everyone experiences at some point in life — we all have times where we feel desperate for attention or find ourselves with strong emotional reactions to the people around us. Moreover, there is a lot of overlap between borderline personality symptoms and features of the “hysterical woman” archetype. This association with demonized femininity is another layer of how borderline personality disorder is viewed with prejudice.

Many people with borderline personality disorder are able to ease their suffering and better enjoy their relationships with others through appropriate mental health treatment, such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or psychodynamic therapy. Borderline personality disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s no excuse for others to mistreat you.

2. Regretting becoming a parent

Even in 2022, parenthood is assumed to be a universal goal for all women and is often expected to be part of the life plan for people of all genders. The reality is not everyone wants to assume parenthood — including some people who are already parents.

Some parents come to feel that the financial expense and significant lifestyle changes connected to having kids outweighs the joys of parenthood. Others come to terms with the knowledge that they never wished to become parents but did so to make family or a partner happy.

Women may find that the rigid social role of motherhood and the often unequal balance of childcare responsibilities make them profoundly unhappy. The lack of economic and social support for parents can create burnout, leaving once eager parents questioning their choices.

It’s unfair to blanket label women who regret having children as “selfish” or men who regret fatherhood as “irresponsible” when life is much more complicated. People who regret parenthood deserve to speak honestly about their nuanced experiences and to get support in navigating how to move forward in a healthy way.

3. Harming your partner in the past

Thanks to the advocacy of survivors of intimate partner violence, it’s generally no longer culturally acceptable to hit, coerce, or otherwise harm your partner. And yet, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the US today have experienced severe intimate partner violence. Survivors have rightfully spoken out about the horrors of intimate partner violence, and what can happen when people submit to their worst behaviors and instincts.

The roots of intimate partner violence are complex, involving the culture of patriarchy at the macro level and social and environmental stressors at the micro level. Intervention programs for people who have harmed their partners show that in some cases, mental health is also part of the picture. 

Men with depression are more likely to harm their partners, as are veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. Research suggests that people who engage with intimate partner violence may be more likely to struggle with regulating their anger and less likely to show flexibility in thought processes.

Mental health is not an excuse for harming your partner. However, removing mental health issues from the equation can help clear the path toward change. The stigma of having engaged in intimate partner violence doesn’t need to prevent you from getting help. Working on yourself is part of taking accountability for your actions and ensuring you don’t fall back into those patterns of harm again.

You deserve support too

Don’t let shame or self-blame hold you back from care. We all deserve support — therapy can help explore the nuances and the messiness of what that means for you. Click the button below to set up a free initial consultation. I would be happy to tell you about my practice and share more about why you should consider giving therapy a try.


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