Internalized stigma, anticipated discrimination and perceived public stigma in adults with ADHD

  • Theresa Vera Masuch
  • Myriam Bea
  • Barbara Alm
  • Peter Deibler
  • Esther SobanskiEmail author
Original Article


The objective of this study is to assess internalized stigma, perceived public stigma, anticipated discrimination and their associations with demographic, psychiatric and psychosocial characteristics in adult ADHD. Stigmatization was assessed with the Internalized Stigma of Mental Illness Scale, the Questionnaire on Anticipated Discrimination and the Questionnaire on Public Stereotypes Perceived by Adults with ADHD. The sample comprised n = 104 adults with ADHD, of whom n = 24 (23.3%) reported high internalized stigma, n = 92 (88.5%) anticipated discrimination in daily life and n = 70 (69.3%) perceived public stigma. Internalized stigma and/or anticipated discrimination correlated with ADHD symptoms, psychological distress, self-esteem, functional impairment and quality of life and was associated with ADHD family history and employment status. Most frequently perceived stereotypes were doubts about the validity of ADHD as a mental disorder. Internalized stigma and anticipated discrimination are highly prevalent in adult ADHD and correlate with the burden of disease. ADHD is associated with characteristic public stereotypes, which are distinct from stereotypes related to other mental disorders. Stigmatization should be considered in the clinical management of adult ADHD and evaluated further in future studies.


ADHD Stigma Discrimination Internalized stigma Psychosocial 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Esther Sobanski: advisory boards Shire Germany and Medice. All other authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


The study received no funding.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty MannheimUniversity HeidelbergMannheimGermany
  2. 2.ADHS Deutschland e. V.BerlinGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychosomaticsProtestant HospitalBad DuerkheimGermany
  4. 4.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and PsychosomaticsUniversity Medical CenterMainzGermany

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