Objectives. Despite the known effects of stigma on people suffering from affective disorders, no study so far has investigated and compared attitudes of the general public towards depression and mania. Furthermore, we were interested if it makes a difference if one asks a sample about its own attitudes or the assumed opinions of ‘others’.
Design. We used an experimental and randomized design.
Methods. People were faced either with a case vignette describing a man with current symptoms of depression or mania. Randomly people (N=387, age 16–34 years) were asked for their own attitudes or for the attitudes of the public in general.
Results. Attitudes towards an individual with a current manic episode turned out to be significantly more negative than towards a person with current depression. Interestingly, the attitudes of the general public were reported to be more negative than the personal attitudes.
Conclusions. While depression is still associated with negative attitudes, this first study looking at manic symptoms as well finds that this seems to be even more so for manic episodes indicating bipolar disorder. It seems recommended to concentrate efforts to reduce stigmatization of the mentally ill more intensively on the bipolar spectrum of affective disorders. Furthermore, testable hypotheses have to be derived why individuals attribute less favourable attitudes to the general public when compared with their own attitudes. The question is if there is a general bias towards social desirability when people are asked for their opinion.