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Shaming The Addicted, Mentally Ill Does Harm, Not Help

Shaming The Addicted, Mentally Ill Does Harm, Not Help

Written by: stodzy | Date: July 12, 2017

Addiction and Mental Illness

People living with addiction are in a constant state of discomfort. Situations that seem inconsequential to those not facing addiction stir the addicted to over analyze, overreact. The same is true for those with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression or bipolar. Addiction and mental illness often go hand-in-hand because some people with mental disorders turn to drugs and alcohol for a sense of ease and comfort from the chaos that exists in their mind. This has been so common that dual diagnosis treatment centers are popping up all over the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) came to the conclusion that almost 8 million adults in the U.S. battled both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder in 2014.

It’s Not Easy

Both addiction and mental disorders are family issues – they affect everyone around the addicted or mentally ill. Families, friends, and other loved ones want to help, but doing so is rarely simple.

I know firsthand how frustrating it can be to try to help someone who is stuck in addiction or actively battling a mental illness. Sometimes you want to yell, scream or even shake them to make them see in themselves what you see in them. You’re tired of them self-sabotaging and throwing away opportunities to be happy and successful. It’s common and it’s ok to be upset. However, if your intention is to help, shaming them is not the way to go about it.

girl suffering from mental illness

While someone might think that belittling someone might motivate them to change, there is actually a higher chance of them having a negative reaction and falling deeper into their symptoms.  Reprimanding or shaming can be damaging and is almost always ineffective. Mental health issues are not a choice. While sometimes dealing with someone with mental health problems may be difficult or even hurtful, it is important to understand that they are not doing it on purpose and it’s not something they control.

People struggling with mental health issues or addiction are already feeling shame. It’s hard enough! These people have pushed so many friends and loved ones away as a result of their actions. Not only are the choices they are making hurting them, but they are hurting others too. While people in their lives are starting to walk away, they are also secluding themselves to avoid future rejection. Both addiction and mental health disorders create a large gap between you and everyone around you. The best thing to do when you see this is to make sure they know that you are there for them and still care. Even if you don’t understand, let them know you don’t understand, but that you want to.

So What Can We Do?

We want to encourage conversation. By shaming an addict with a mental illness, you are actually feeding into their illness and assisting the cycle of shame and using. I know that I was stuck in a cycle of feeling guilty and drinking until I met someone who told me that my addiction wasn’t my fault. I had no idea that it could be a genetic illness. This is when I came to believe that it wasn’t my fault but the addiction gene was simply passed on to me by my father. Taking the blame out of my cycle gave me the strength to seek the assistance that I never thought I deserved. If we could take all blame and guilt out of the equation, more people would be asking for help and getting treatment. While it is impossible to take a person’s guilt away from them, we can make a difference by staying away from shaming.  It is possible to lighten the load if we are careful with our words.

Getting Help at Wayside House

If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.