Often, when an individual is in the throes of addiction, he or she may strongly feel the need to hide it. In many ways, hiding an addiction includes hiding it from oneself, which is the denial that accompanies this illness.
However, the illness of addiction carries a stigma. The public eye sees it as a weakness in character rather than a psychological illness. For instance, a recent study revealed that the stigma of an addiction carries more weight than the stigma of mental illness.
It appears that many people believe that an addiction is an indication of a personal flaw. This is one barrier that frequently stands in the way of seeking addiction help.
And stigmas only make the road to long-term recovery longer. In fact, for many men and women, the label of being an addict has kept them out of treatment altogether. In recent years, this has been especially true for women.
According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 2.7 million women in the United States, many of whom do not receive treatment because their social roles as mothers and nurturers.
Seeking substance abuse treatment would highlight the stigma of alcohol or drug use in their families and communities. The shame that comes with admitting drug use often gets in the way of tending to their addiction, even if it becomes destructive.
Why People Hide Their Addiction
Clearly, most people don’t like to be labeled. And sadly, many people perpetuate labeling by referring to others in ways that are belittling, such as “Joe is an addict”. However, just opposite is actually true.
Joe is not the addiction itself. He is a human being with feelings, thoughts, aspirations, dreams, and hopes, just like everyone else. He happens to have a mental illness, and with the right treatment, it can be managed and not become an obstacle to reaching those hopes and dreams.
Another obstacle to getting substance abuse treatment is the fear of legal consequences, such as criminal charges and other forms of legal punishment that may come with admitting to the illegal use of certain drugs.
Because of these obstacles and more, there are a large number of men and women who desperately need addiction help but avoid seeking treatment and continue to hide it from friends and family. As a result, they end up in dangerous situations such as overdosing and losing their lives.
Hiding psychological illness, especially addiction, can be dangerous. For example, mental illness can lead to either violence towards oneself, such as overdosing, or violence towards others, such as the shootings we’ve seen in recent years.
For instance, on May 19, 2009, Kenny Baker took his life after a long battle with depression and anxiety. He was kind, softhearted, and a star swimmer. But he suffered from severe depression causing hospitalizations and medical treatment.
He hid his diagnosis from friends saying that he had mononucleosis to explain his stays at the hospital. Despite treatment and a supportive family, he laid himself down on the railroad tracks near his home in Plainsboro, New Jersey to end his life.
Although Ken Baker did not have an addiction, his depression and anxiety led to taking his life. Addiction, which is a form of mental illness, can also lead to injury and death. It might go without saying that hiding an addiction only makes it worse.
Seeking Addiction Help
Of course, seeking addiction help can be difficult if a strong pattern of denial remains. But carrying it inside oneself and trying to hide it from friends can make life very difficult.
Sometimes, men and women who suffer from addiction can recognize their need for an external source to help stop the addiction cycle. They seek addiction help because they realize that they themselves don’t have the inner strength or willpower to end their substance use. In these cases, the desire for substance abuse treatment might be there, but the stigma and fear of legal consequences may continue to get in the way. However, when it comes down to it, when an individual knows that he or she needs assistance, getting addiction help and committing oneself to sobriety is the only thing that is going to end an addiction, regardless of what others think. The decision to finally get addiction help is a choice that each person needs to make for themselves.
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