Stigma in Addiction and Mental Illness
Stigma is described as powerful, negative perceptions which are commonly associated with substance abuse, addiction, or mental illness. Many people in recovery experience stigma. Much in the way that each person’s road to recovery is different, so is the stigma they experience along the way. Negative attitudes and beliefs toward people coping with addiction or a mental health condition can even lead to discrimination.
This discrimination may be experienced directly or indirectly. Negative remarks about addiction even just someone avoiding you based on the assumption of being unstable as a result of stigma. There are potentially negative effects that stigma may take on a person’s self-esteem leading to damage in relationships or even preventing the individual from seeking the treatment they need. The stigma associated with addiction and mental illness can impact the lives of friends and family of those in recovery as well.
Some effects of stigma may include:
- A lack of understanding by friends, family, co-workers, or others.
- Bullying, physical violence or harassment.
- Reluctance to seek treatment or help.
- A decrease in opportunities at work, social activities, or school.
There are ways to effectively cope with stigma.
Don’t let stigma create an environment of self-doubt in your life. A fog of shame and self-doubt can be created as a result of stigma in your life from others. Don’t let this be mistaken as a sign of weakness in yourself. Seek help through a counselor where you can better educate yourself about your condition. You may even look to connect with others who are coping with mental illness. This can help you to gain self-esteem and overcome self-judgement which can be destructive.
Although it may be tempting to isolate yourself when experiencing stigma, resist the urge to do so. Family, friends, and members of your community can offer support and guidance if they are aware of your addiction or mental illness. Reach out to the people you trust most for support, understanding and compassion when needed.
Finally, join a support group. There are a number of local and national groups that offer programs and online resources aimed at reducing the stigma of addiction and mental health by providing education to the public.