Overcoming Stigma: A Discussion on Addiction and Mental Health

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Addiction is a complicated issue. It’s also misunderstood and stigmatized by large portions of the population. Addiction is often hidden from society, too; many people who struggle with addiction don’t want to share their struggles because they’re afraid that others view them as “weak” or “broken.” Say’s Dr. Julian Mitton, this stigma makes it harder for those with addictions to get help—and this stigma can also make it harder for people with mental health issues to get help.

In today’s post, we’ll discuss how addiction and mental illness are stigmatized in our culture and what we can do about it!

Addiction is a disease.

Addiction is a disease. It is not a moral failing, nor is it a choice. Many people believe that those with addictions are weak-willed or lazy and don’t want to get help. In reality, they may be unable to stop themselves from using drugs or alcohol because of the changes in their brain chemistry caused by repeated drug use.

Addiction affects all parts of your life: relationships with family members; work performance; physical health (including dental care); financial situation (spending money on drugs instead of food). Some people who are addicted spend so much time thinking about getting high that they neglect important responsibilities like caring for children or paying bills on time–and their lives fall apart as a result!

Addiction is often hidden and misunderstood.

Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. People with addiction often function very well in society, but have great difficulty managing their disease. They may be highly successful and intelligent people who are in denial about their problem and how it affects the people around them.

The stigma surrounding mental health is just as deep rooted as the stigma surrounding addiction.

The stigma surrounding mental health is just as deep rooted as the stigma surrounding addiction. The causes and consequences of each are often misunderstood, which leads to fear and discrimination. People with both disorders face unique challenges in their daily lives, including:

  • Being misunderstood by friends and family members who don’t understand what they’re going through
  • Having difficulty finding employment due to their condition(s)
  • Having trouble getting medical treatment because doctors may not want to treat someone with a mental illness

We need to change the language we use around mental illness and addiction.

  • Refer to the problem as a disease. The word “disease” is not used in this way to demean or shame people with cancer or diabetes, so why should we use it for mental illness? This language shows that we understand that addiction is not a choice but rather an illness of the brain–and it removes blame from those struggling with addiction, making them feel less isolated and stigmatized.
  • Don’t use stigmatizing language. Words like crazy, loser and insane are hurtful words that can lead to discrimination against those with mental health issues by reinforcing stereotypes about them being dangerous or unpredictable individuals who need to be avoided at all costs (which isn’t necessarily true!).


Addiction and mental health issues are a huge problem in our society, and they’re only getting worse. We need to start treating addiction as the disease it is instead of blaming people who suffer from it or judging them for their struggles.

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