Positive self-talk to lower self-stigma
Many people with dementia have negative self-talk about themselves, such as:
- “I’m stupid because I have dementia”
- “I’m useless because I have dementia”
- “I’m a burden because I have dementia”
These thoughts are not accurate and stop people from moving forward with dementia. These thoughts are a barrier to taking part in life. They often arise because of self-stigma. Self-stigma means negative beliefs or feelings towards yourself because you have dementia. Self-stigma is really common in people with dementia, because of negative stereotypes the community holds about dementia (see this page about myths and stereotypes about dementia).
- When we examine each of the above statements, we can see they are not correct.
Stupid means “showing a lack of intelligence or common sense”. Intelligence can include academic intelligence, emotional intelligence and practical intelligence. While your memory or some aspects of your thinking might be worse because of dementia, it’s likely that you’ve got most of your previous intelligence abilities and common sense. It is more accurate to think “My memory or thinking is worse because I have dementia”.
- When negative self-talk starts, focus on things that you’re good at, not the dementia, such as “I’ve got good common sense” or “I’m great at cooking”. Write down three things you’re good at and put them on the fridge as a reminder.
Useless means “something that has no function or purpose or that is not helpful in any way”. You are not useless. You do things for yourself and others, in your home and in your garden and outside the home. It is more accurate to think “I’m less useful because I have dementia”.
- When negative self-talk starts, focus on things that you do which are useful. “I make my grandchildren laugh”, “I read and enjoy books”, “I keep the garden weed-free”. Write down three things you do that have meaning or purpose and put them on the fridge as a reminder.
Being a burden means “causing someone a lot of difficulty, worry or hard work”. You are not a burden. People around you might worry and care for you, just like you worry and care for others, and have probably done so for much of your life. Do you think of your friends, spouse, or children who you worry or care about as a burden?
- When negative self-talk starts, focus on the things you do for yourself, or for someone else. Write down three things you do for yourself or for someone else. “I make my wife tea every day” “I keep my shed organised” “I treat my friends when we have coffee”.
You may think positive self-talk is new age mumbo-jumbo and won’t work, but there is scientific evidence that positive self-talk can help with mood, find out more at Positive Psychology.
Practice positive self-talk
Write down 3 things you’re good at, or have meaning or purpose, or that you do for yourself or others. Put them on the fridge as a reminder.