When people don’t seek help for their addiction issues, it causes many problems in their lives, including serious consequences like illness and death. Unfortunately, a sense of stigma in regard to addiction often inhibits many people from getting the help they need. However, there is nothing to be ashamed of in seeking treatment. The disease of addiction can impact anyone from any walk of life, including working professionals. It’s important for everyone, including working professionals, to get help to heal from addiction, as recovery benefits both the person and their loved ones.
There are many negative stereotypes regarding addiction. People often fear that if they admit they are struggling with an addiction, they may be stigmatized and mistreated by others. However, it is important to seek help. Addiction treatment is highly effective and can help a person succeed in both their personal and professional life.
Factors in Addiction Stigma
Stigma is a word that describes a set of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to a specific trait or disease. In this case, addiction stigma refers to the assumptions about and treatment of those with addiction. It shows up in multiple ways. First, stigmas appear in small individual interactions with co-workers, acquaintances, or loved ones. Additionally, stigmas exist within systems including healthcare or professional organizations. This might look like a policy that permits discrimination against those with addiction.
Stigma can include public perception of what addiction is and what individuals with addiction are like. This results from a combination of blame, believed behaviors, and assumptions about socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity. Painting a picture of what “every” person struggling with an addiction looks like is damaging to those who need to become vulnerable enough to seek help.
While it is known in the medical world that addiction is a disease that impacts the brain, people are often blamed as if it is their fault or that they are weak. A common misconception is that if someone with an addiction were to “try harder” or have better morality, they would be able to stop using drugs and alcohol. However, this is not a valid assumption. Addiction hijacks the brain, creating cravings and decreasing a person’s control.
Another common addiction stigma is regarding the type of behavior that comes along with addiction. Many believe that all individuals with addiction are dangerous and unpredictable. Researchers have found that many believe that an individual addicted to drugs or alcohol is likely to hurt others. This stereotype can create fear in anyone who is struggling with or recovering from addiction.
Addiction can impact anyone in any walk of life or socioeconomic status. The common addiction stigma is that those who are working professionals, teachers, or doctors do not struggle with addiction. However, this is incorrect. Working professionals from many careers need help with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.
Impacts of Addiction Stigma
When encountering a generalized negative public opinion or any type of systemized discrimination, many people experience internal changes. These internal changes consist of decreased self-esteem and self-efficacy, meaning that stigma makes individuals feel negative about their worth and ability to make changes. As a result, a person may feel like there is no reason to try to recover from addiction.
A lack of self-efficacy leads to people avoiding seeking help or committing to the changes necessary to recover from addiction. This is not a lack of motivation, but instead a sense that one is unable to change and there is nothing one can do. Lack of self-esteem has similar results. When a person does not believe that they are worth helping, they are less likely to seek the help that they need. Therefore, addiction stigma leads to a decrease in assertive help-seeking behaviors and a lack of pursuit of the changes that can help them recover from addiction.
Working Through Addiction Stigma
Working through stigma will look different for each person. A working professional may experience discrimination in their professional life. It is often necessary to educate oneself and others to work through systemic stigma. By helping others understand the nature of addiction, people can improve their own experience and also help others who are struggling with addiction.
These changes, however, take time. For working professionals in need of treatment, this may not be the time to advocate for these changes. Instead, it is likely more helpful to seek help from within the system itself. It’s helpful to speak with one’s human resources department, health insurance, or an addiction treatment professional who can help the person learn how to navigate this.
Changing Internal Beliefs
Changes within a person’s own beliefs regarding addiction stigma are also important. This begins with disclosing or admitting that they feel stigmatized by others or by themselves. Allowing themselves to see that they have been impacted by addiction stigma is healing. In doing so, they can more clearly identify what is inhibiting them from getting help, which will look different for each person.
Working with a mental health care professional or seeing help from a treatment center is the first step. Professionals working in addiction will help the addicted person break down their feelings, working through them to get the help they need and deserve.
Addiction is commonly stigmatized. The culture often characterizes how a person struggling with addiction looks. However, addiction is a disease that can impact anyone. Understanding and working through addiction stigma is important as it can allow you to seek the treatment you need. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we understand that addiction stigma can stop you as a working professional from getting the help you need. However, we can help you break down the addiction stigmas you have experienced and learn about the true nature of addiction while getting the help you need to recover. Call (949) 426-7962 to speak with one of our staff members about how we can help you heal today.