What is stigma?

Stigma is a kind of judgement associated with people who have been through certain circumstances, including those who are addicts or recovering addicts. In this blog we discuss the stigma of addiction.

Who does stigma affect?

A person may inflict stigma upon themselves, typically after others stigmatise them. They begin to replicate the judgment others show them and project it inwardly. This can be incredibly harmful to a person’s self-worth, particularly if they are already in a vulnerable state.

Family members of someone living with addiction can also be affected by stigma, often resulting in them not feeling like they’re able to help. When family members are stigmatised, they often experience feelings of shame, blame and guilt.

It can also be the case that whole communities are stigmatised because substance use is prevalent in that area, or at least there is a perception of widespread substance use there.

What are the effects of stigma?

Some parts of society do not understand how addiction affects a person and, instead of showing compassion and support, they show fear and blame. They may hold prejudiced beliefs that people living with addictions must be, for example, dirty or associated with criminal behaviours, or consider them dangerous; they may shun the addicted people instead of helping them.

The scorn shown by judgmental parts of society can prevent people from seeking the help they, or a loved one, may need, for fear of being judged. People living with addictions may feel unable to ‘open up’ to their friends, family or co-workers for fear of being stigmatised or judged as someone who has an addiction problem.

They may worry about ‘word getting around’ to their employer or their landlord, for fear of being fired or evicted, or perhaps to their parents. This can cause individuals and families to try to cope on their own, without the tools or resources they need to recover, causing the problem to worsen.

How can we eliminate stigma?

Everyone can help push past stigma and it can be done in the following ways:

  • Reframe addiction as a health problem that deserves the same medical treatment as any other condition
  • Use non-judgmental language, particularly language that focuses on the person and not the addiction, e.g. person living with addiction instead of addict, or person with harmful alcohol use instead of alcoholic
  • Don’t define a person by their problem
  • Speak up when others around you make negative or disparaging comments about people experiencing addictions
  • If you think any of your friends or family may have a problem with addiction, let them know they can discuss it without fear of judgement

How can ANA Treatment Centres help?

Rehabilitation centres, like ANA Treatment Centres, offer professional help when it comes to the recovery journey. We provide treatment for people with substance issues as well as support for their families. Get in touch today to find out how ANA Treatment Centres can help your family.