Prejudice and discrimination often find ways of creeping into our lives. Some of us are the victims of prejudice, whereas others are active in discrimination. Either way, prejudice can have a negative effect psychologically, and you may require help to overcome these issues.

Prejudice means the pre-judgement of individuals or groups. Not all the facts and information are known, but a mental picture is already in place. These preconceived notions can be based on the over-reporting of certain groups in the media, or perhaps on the opinions of other influential individuals such as parents and friends. Often, these feelings are irrational. Discrimination involves the action taken based on the initial prejudice. Discriminatory actions are often unfair and uncalled for. Unfortunately, even if we try to be open minded, most of us can recall a time where we have held some degree of prejudice. This is quite normal. For example, if you meet a heavily tattooed individual with a shaved head and piercings who tells you they are a librarian, you may feel slightly surprised. As long as our prejudices are minor and can be re-thought once more information has been gained, they are not overly harmful. However, if prejudices become fixed opinions and lead to discriminatory actions, this is where serious problems arise.

How Prejudice/Discrimination Can Harm Us

Prejudices and discrimination can grow to be very harmful. This is especially true for victims of discrimination, who are often members of minority groups. It can lead to low self-esteem, insecurity, and feelings of not fitting in with wider society. This can create attitudes of hopelessness and depression. Discrimination can lead to physical violence, which leaves victims with potential psychological issues like anxiety, posttraumatic stress and agoraphobia. If severe, or persistent, these events can cause the victim to consider self-harm and, in extreme cases, suicide. Prejudice and discrimination can take many forms such as racism, homophobia, and the hatred of certain religious groups. These ideas have been known to do great damage throughout history, creating civil and national wars, genocide, extermination programs, and other terrible events. Such tragedies do still occur in present times and cause massive harm, both to individuals and to the psyche of certain groups. The impact is undoubtedly felt most severely by victims of discrimination and help should be sought. However, it can also cause harm to those who hold prejudices, causing problems like agoraphobia and xenophobia. In some cases, these people may also need support and guidance.

Prejudice/Discrimination and External Relationships

Prejudices have a significant effect on our external relationships. If someone holds strong prejudices, they will avoid having certain friends altogether. For example, they may choose to only associate with people of the same race as them, or avoid having gay friends. They may also find friends who have a similar attitude in terms of prejudices because they have something in common. This is damaging, and leads to a continuation and perhaps even an escalation of discrimination if the prejudice is encouraged by influential friends. Prejudice and discrimination have an effect on local communities. If tensions between two groups grow critical and violent, it can cause a local area to become dangerous, even for those not involved in the discrimination. This is true in cases of gang rivalry and warfare in particular towns and cities. There are situations where individuals have no choice about the people they mix with. For example, in prisons, where there is a continuation of gang problems and racial hatred. This is also true in many places of work. Most of the time, this does not end in violence because of fears of reprisal, but underlying tensions can affect the morale in the workplace, and the ability to be fully productive. Prejudice and discrimination have a significant effect on our external relationships in everyday life; this effect is harmful.

How Therapy Can Help

If you are being affected by prejudice, you may need to seek help in order to overcome the issues. Some of us are the victims of discrimination; this can be damaging to our mental health. We may need support to rebuild self-esteem and confidence, or to recover from more serious psychological issues caused. The perpetrators of discrimination may also need professional help and advice. The prejudice may be impacting severely on your ability to have a healthy social life, you may feel out of control and issues with anger can arise. If any of this sounds familiar it is very important to find support. Therapists and counselors are there to help anyone that needs it. They will not turn you away or betray trust. They will offer an impartial platform to voice concerns and fears, and help to work through your issues. If you have been affected negatively by prejudice and discrimination, contact a counselor or therapist and begin your recovery.

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