Is there more stigma with depression or addiction?

Changes in stigma ahead

I thought stigma was bad with depression until Charles developed a drug habit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bad with both. Due to lack of understanding and education, both depression and addiction are seen as “weaknesses.”

With addiction, things take on a new level of shame.

Until it happens to someone’s family they don’t see the disease because the nature of addiction is such a different illness. Hallmarks of addiction include behavior that is often considered “immoral” behavior therefore people think the sufferer should be able to control it. In short, it’s seen as a moral failing.

Addicts steal to support their habit. They lie and manipulate and are seen as selfish–focused on feeding their habit. All of these are hallmarks of the disease of addiction. The destructive and self-destructive behavior of addiction is maddening and frustrating. Parents who are addicted will give up everything and even abandon their children because of the habit.

Judgement is harsher with addiction. If I post a picture of someone that dies from addiction, I will always get private messages, “Should you say that?” My response? Would you ask me that if he/she died of heart disease? It’s a cause of death. Period.

That makes this opiate epidemic that much harder to fight. Few have compassion. People simply don’t see it unless it happens to their loved one, allowing this epidemic dig deep into our culture, making it that much harder to resolve. Community support and education is still woefully lacking. And many families have an addict living in their home and don’t even know it because they don’t know the signs. They think everything is fine until they are slapped in the face with it.

But no one is immune. And if you think you are, you are living a fantasy.

The stigma with either of them blocks access to care and resources. It’s changing. Slowly. But it’s likely we will have another 3 years of this overdose opiate epidemic. With addicted babies being born and kids being abandoned by addicted parents, it will take decades to unwind from all its imposed trauma and side effects to this generation.

It’s time we got a new attitude, looked past our pride and invested in solutions. Because this is the culture everyone is living in now and you can’t isolate yourself from it.

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3 thoughts on “Is there more stigma with depression or addiction?”

  1. This post speaks to so many truths that people who live with addiction and/or depression suffer through because, in my opinion, of the myths that those who are uninformed about the reality of both of these illnesses hold. One of the myths that seems to increase the stigma towards addiction in my experience is that so many people I encounter don’t recognize it as a disease. I hope that Substance Use Disorders being included as an official diagnosis in the DSM-V will help those who are out there educating the masses (a handful at a time), to have a tool to use to lend credibility to the same information that they have been teaching with “just scientific evidence” to back them. It saddens me that there are many people who will form opinions based on tv dramas, stories heard third hand, viral videos, and other less than reliable sources and those opinions become their truth.

    I find that thread woven through other mental health diagnoses, like depression, and I agree that it doesn’t seem to be quite as prevalent as with SUD’s. What I don’t think people who’s live’s have not been affected by these diseases realize is that they are intertwined and the stigma has a devastating effect on the individual and everyone walking that path with them.

    According to the American Heritage Dictionary the following is the definition of “Stigma”:
    1. An association of disgrace or public disapproval with something, such as an action or condition (American Heritage Dictionary, 2011). Shame cultivates isolation and exacerbates the problem. I wonder what would happen if we used verbiage like, “I have this disease in my brain and it might kill me if I don’t get it treated.” or “My loved one came out of remission from their brain disease and the disease took them from us.”? Do you think it would make a difference? Do you think compassion and empathy would replace the stigma?

    Reference:
    stigma. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved February 15 2017 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/stigma

  2. Great job educating the public about the fact that addiction is a disease. My son willingly accepted & shared his diagnosis of Bipolar but was reluctant to acknowledge & accept his addiction. Probably b/c it is considered by most to be a weakness rather than an illness. And his actions when attempting to feed his habit were often illegal as well as publicly humiliating to us, his family. After I shared all his problems at the time of his suicide several people in our small town privately approached my husband & shared their children’s addiction issues & struggles. Most were a total surprise to us.

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