Stigmas of Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction

 

The stigmas of mental health and addiction are entirely unwarranted, based on what we know scientifically about both. There was a time when we knew little about mental health disorders or addiction. Due to that lack of knowledge, there was often a misconception that you were weak or lacked morals if you were experiencing these conditions.

Unfortunately, those concepts were also associated with many mental health conditions and addiction. These misconceptions stopped society’s progress in understanding these are diseases. As with other chronic diseases, mental health disorders require evidence-based treatment.

When you learn more about substance use disorder, it can help you break down the stigmas you may personally feel still exist. Breaking down stigmas on an individual level can help you realize it’s okay to seek help. 

If you aren’t personally struggling with addiction or behavior disorders. Still, your loved one is, you can be a more effective support system for them when you learn more about the disease of addiction or a mental illness.

 

Why Do Stigmas Exist?

Chemical dependency or an addiction to substances is a chronic brain disease. When you have a substance abuse disorder, your brain compels you to seek out and use a substance.

  • From the early 1800s, we know there was a harmful view taken on substance abuse and mental illness, although it likely started well before then. We have more records of how people with these disorders were described in places like medical literature from later periods.
  • For example, by the early 1900s, people with alcohol addictions were described as moral inferiors. Their children were called born criminals, who couldn’t determine right from wrong.
  • In 1914, there was the passage of legislation called the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act. Addiction was criminalized, as were physicians who worked to treat substance use disorders.
  • Even in more modern times, the stigma of addiction and mental health has been reinforced. For example, in the 1970s the so-called War on Drugs started. There wasn’t a focus on treatment or rehabilitation, nor was addiction viewed as a disease. Instead, the war on drugs led to furthering criminalization of addiction. The results weren’t favorable, with the number of people going to jail for drug-related crimes have gone up enormously in the past few decades.

Recognizing these stigmas exist is one part of moving forward and away from these damaging viewpoints.

 

The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Brain

When you use drugs or alcohol, dopamine floods your brain. That dopamine hijacks your reward system. Because of the effects on your reward system, you want to continue seeking out the substance that initially made you feel good.  You may know there are negative consequences or that it’s not healthy, but you can’t stop.

  • Your brain adjusts to the use of the substance through the development of tolerance.
  • When your tolerance rises, you need larger doses of the substance to feel the same way.
  • Your brain’s function and structure can be profoundly affected. 
  • You’re also eventually unable to experience pleasure from healthy, everyday activities.

There are decades of research work that demonstrate the reality of substance use. When you’re addicted to drugs or have an alcohol addiction, it’s not because you’re morally weak, lack willpower, or don’t want to stop.

Many people use recreational drugs or alcohol and never become addicted. Most people don’t. When you first use a substance, you don’t think you will develop an addiction. No one does.

Researchers have identified some of the key area’s addiction effects in the brain.

  • Dopamine-containing pathways are the ones we know are most significantly affected.
  • Short-term drug or alcohol use may cause minor effects in the brain.
  • Long-term use causes significant brain changes that reinforce an alcohol or drug habit, like strengthening memory circuits associated with drug-taking. 
  • For years after someone stops taking drugs or alcohol, the brain changes can continue. That continuation is why addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease.

That doesn’t mean you’ll absolutely relapse with drug addiction or alcohol use disorders, but it does mean addiction requires treatment with relapse prevention in mind.

 

Understanding the Reasons for Stigma

Mental disorders and addiction often go hand-in-hand. These are co-occurring disorders.

People with mental illness are unlikely to get help for their condition, just like people with substance use disorders. Not getting help is very often due to the stigma or discrimination they worry they’ll experience.

There are different types of stigma that can affect you.

  • Public stigma involves other people’s negative attitudes about mental illness or addiction. 
  • Then, there’s self-stigma, which is internalized shame you may feel.
  • Institutional stigma is systemic and may mean you have limited opportunities because of your addiction or mental health issue. For example, there may be fewer treatment options for physical health conditions or less access to treatment. Even health insurance companies reinforce this stigma. Health insurance issuers can make accessing mental health benefits and addiction disorder services harder. 
  • Stigma can affect someone personally dealing with addiction or a mental illness. Stigma can also affect their families and loved ones.
  • Culturally, stigma may be a significant issue too. For example, there’s an even greater stigma about accessing addiction or mental health treatment or seeing mental health counselors in some cultures. There can also be distrust in treatment systems, including mental health & addiction services. 

​​

 

The Consequences of Stigma

In mental health and addiction, arguably the most significant consequence of stigma is barriers to substance use treatment. Addiction is a treatable disease. 

With successful treatment programs, you can manage symptoms and start your life in recovery.

You can retain your sense of control and live a self-directed life. Unfortunately, if you’re embarrassed or feel shame about your situation, you’re much less likely to seek help at treatment facilities or a mental health facility. 

  • You may worry about what people think about you, but addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. 
  • A progressive illness worsens over time, and more complications can develop.
  • Other mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can also progress without treatment. This worsening of addiction and mental health disorders can contribute to a behavioral health crisis. 
  • The effects of stigma include low self-esteem, more difficulties at school or work, and a reduced sense of hope.

Stigma can lead to social isolation, bullying or violence, or the belief that you can’t do anything to improve your situation, reinforcing the idea that you shouldn’t get behavioral health care. 

 

Addiction Treatment

We want to emphasize again that addiction is a disease and a treatable one. However, it’s nearly impossible to overcome a substance use disorder simply by deciding you want to stop. Treatment often includes a combination of therapy and medication.

Treatment and recovery have challenges, but you’ll find it’s worth it.

The opioid crisis has brought to our attention the effects of stigma in addiction services and mental health care more than ever. Tens of thousands of people are needlessly dying annually, in large part due to stigma. 

Our goal is always to reduce these effects. Anchored Tides Recovery helps people with addictions and their loved ones learn more about substance use and overcome it. To learn more about mental health and addiction services, please call 866-600-7709. We can provide you with information about the addiction recovery process for a substance use disorder. 

How Domestic Abuse Can Cause Substance Abuse For Women

addiction-and-depression

There are many issues in society that people simply aren’t comfortable discussing. Sadly, many of these issues tend to go hand in hand. This is exactly the case when it comes to domestic violence and substance abuse. These are almost always found together. When someone abuses drugs or alcohol, they tend to lose control of themselves. Substance abuse has the potential to destroy relationships with loved ones. When someone surrenders control of themselves to the cycle of addiction, they tend to lash out at loved ones. This can lead to domestic violence.

At the same time, the inverse is also true. When someone is the victim of domestic violence, this can drive someone to the bonds of addiction as well. For this reason, many women who end up in the world of substance abuse are also victims of domestic violence. It is critical for everyone to know how the two are related. That way, they can get help if they need it.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is any pattern of behavior in a relationship that is exercised to gain or maintain power over someone else. Domestic violence is a major problem in society and many people feel that the exact figures are under-reported. Domestic violence can take many forms. While many people feel that domestic violence is limited to physical abuse, this is not the case. This type of behavior can also include verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and even sexual abuse.

Domestic violence, like addiction, has the potential to cause collateral damage as well. In households where there are children involved, they can end up getting caught in the middle. This can lead to severe trauma for children, tearing a family apart. Finally, women who are victims of domestic violence are far more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol down the road.

Addiction and Domestic Violence are Related

What many people don’t realize is that addiction and domestic violence are related. The actions of domestic violence come out of someone’s desire to control someone else. When someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are going to lose control of their own inhibitions. When someone is under the influence, they are far more likely to engage in abusive behavior. Furthermore, research has shown that the vast majority of domestic violence crimes are related to the use of drugs.

Drugs have the ability to change how the neurotransmitters in the brain flow back and forth. The brain develops a need for these drugs and will do anything to force the person to find them. As a result, significant others who get in the way of this addiction will cause someone to lash out. This will lead to domestic violence. There are a few major characteristics that addiction and domestic violence share. Both activities can cause someone to lose control over the actions, engage in dangerous behaviors despite the negative consequences, will get worse over time, and can lead to both denial and shame. In many cases of domestic violence, both the abuser and the victim have a substance abuse disorder. This only complicates things further. If there are children involved, the situation only becomes even direr.

The Effects of Addiction and Domestic Violence

The effects of these two dangerous activities can lead to serious issues. When someone is the victim of domestic violence, they are far more likely to experience other mental health disorders. While substance abuse is a mental health disorder unto itself, there are numerous other complications that might result as well. Some of the problems that might arise following addiction and domestic violence include:

  • The development of other dependencies including designer drugs and alcohol
  • The development of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia
  • Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder can also start to manifest
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is becoming more common

These are only a few of the many mental health issues that might result when someone is the victim of domestic violence. Addiction is bad enough; however, when it is coupled with domestic violence, the consequences can be particularly severe. That is why it is important for everyone to rely on trained professionals to help address addiction and substance abuse. Nobody should have to face these problems alone.

Rely on the Professionals at Anchored Tides Recovery

At Anchored Tides Recovery, we are drug abuse and addiction treatment program designed by women because we believe that women deserve to have a dedicated cadre of professionals who know and understand them. We know that drug abuse and domestic violence go hand in hand. That is why we tailor our addiction treatment plans to meet your individual needs. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you, please contact us today.