What Is the Meaning of Stigmatization?

Individuals who are shamed, bullied or discriminated against based on preconceived judgments of their appearance, disabilities or lifestyles are victims of stigmatization. Stigmatized individuals fall outside the society definition of "normal." Examples include prostitutes, mental patients, drug addicts or people with physical deformities, according to About.com.

In 1963, author Erving Goffman broke social stigma into three types: character traits, physical limitations and group identification. Individuals who suffer from mental disorders, alcohol or drug addiction, homosexuality, unemployment or suicide attempts are unfairly perceived by society as weak, immoral or dishonest. Those with physical differences, such as excess weight, are often viewed by society as lazy, weak-willed, overindulgent or with less than average intelligence. Stigmatization also occurs based on group identity, including national, religious or racial.