Penn Memory Center Scholar Shana Stites, PsyD, MA, MS was a featured guest on a recent episode of Dementia Matters, hosted by Dr. Nathaniel Chin of the University of Wisconsin. On the show, Dr. Stites discussed her work with the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and the role disclosure can have on perpetuating or fighting it.
Stigma can come from both internal and external sources, she explained, based on our perceptions of how a person with Alzheimer’s disease is supposed to act, what they’re supposed to look like, and how those perceptions meet with reality.
In Dr. Stites’ work on the subject, she found that people who believed more strongly that Alzheimer’s disease is a mental illness tended to “over-interpret” symptoms presented to them in a fictional vignette, believing the symptoms to be worse than those who did not associate Alzheimer’s disease with mental illness as strongly.
“If we have a strong belief Alzheimer’s disease is a mental illness…it could impact our willingness or openness to learn a gene or biomarker result,” Dr. Stites said.
You can listen to the full episode here.