They’ve Got It All Wrong: Strategies for Overcoming Stigma Surrounding Addiction

Stigma has long been a part of American history when it comes to mental illness and substance abuse. Movies, television shows, and more have all contributed to the increase of misunderstandings through the portrayal of certain characters – which in turn has caused an overall lack of support for those who truly need help. A 2016 publication titled “Ending Discrimination Against People with Mental and Substance Use Disorders: The Evidence for Stigma Change” sought to address crucial factors behind stigma: blame, stereotypes of dangerousness and unpredictability, lack of knowledge about mental illness or substance abuse, contact and experience with people who have a mental illness or substance use disorder (SUD), media portrayals, and race, ethnicity, and culture have all been shown to play a part in stigma.

Labels such as “drug addict” or “alcoholic” tend to cause individuals to look at others as if that is their identity – as if they have no hopes, dreams, values, roles (such as father, daughter, son, wife, etc.), and more. Labeling takes away a person’s humanity and, in turn, perpetuates hatred. If you’ve struggled with stigma in the past due to your disorder, know that you’re not alone, and that recovery is possible.

A 2016 study published in the journal Qualitative Social Work sought to explore how women resisted stigma. The following strategies are what they found:

  • Withdrawing from the stigmatizer – either temporarily or permanently, many women distanced themselves from the person who was stigmatizing them
  • Confronting the stigmatizer – for some women, withdrawal was not an option if they were unable to leave a situation or a certain relationship. With this, they directly questioned the person as to how their statement applies directly to them and then explained how it violates their rights as a human being
  • Reappropriating stigma – many women reframed the stigma that was placed on them by changing it to something positive; for example, one woman was told to cover her scars on her arms so that she looked more presentable – she told herself that those scars were symbols of strength

Remember that only you can determine your self-worth. No matter what others say, you have the power to decide whether you want to let their opinions in or not. Recovery is possible for you, and can succeed. Don’t give up. Don’t let them win.

Trauma is most often the root cause of many emotional, behavioral, and mood disorders. Until you can heal your trauma, you will find great difficulty finding the healing you need to live a life of recovery, health, and wellness. At Khiron House, we provide effective residential treatment and cutting edge therapies which seek to transform mind, body, and spirit from the effects of trauma. Call us today for information. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours) USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).