Adjusting to a stigmatizing health condition happens, in all likelihood, in a series of phases perhaps not unlike those described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross when she put forth her ideas about the process of death and dying. Goffman in his study of stigma suggests that there indeed is such a process: “the stigmatized individual can come to feel that he should be above passing, that if he accepts himself and respects himself he will feel no need to conceal his failing”. However, Goffman then goes on to write that many people (who may even be priding themselves on having made the adjustment to their stigmatizing condition) aren’t even aware that they may be doing something called covering.
The cost stigma extracts from those who are disqualified from full social acceptance never ceases to amaze me. A huge part of the costs that surround stigma management is the effort put into passing, the term used by Dr. Goffman to describe the behavior of individuals who have a stigmatized health condition or disability which they can (although only with substantial effort) keep hidden. Goffman states that: “Because of the great rewards in being considered normal, almost all persons who are in a position to pass will do so on some occasion by intent.” There seem to be many creative ways that people discover to pass, probably many more then there are health conditions people are trying to cover up. Following are examples of these efforts to pass from the book Stigma: Notes On The Management of Spoiled Identity.