The Ugly and Unfair Social Stigma of Addiction, Recovery and/or Mental Illness

A stigma can easily be defined as a mark of disgrace with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

Ugly and Unfair

Most often a social stigma attached to nearly any label is incredibly unfair, ignorant, extremely judgmental, and misinformed. It is precisely ignorance, misinformation, and misjudgment which lead to a negative stigmatic label.

Think about so many controversial subjects and there is usually a social stigma that goes hand in hand with them. Think about things like: sexual identities, chronic gambling, uncontrollable lust, and so on.

And yes, I’m talking about addictions, mental illness, and recovery as well…all of which endure a negative social stigma. Many of us want to claim that we are not judgmental, and yet none of us would disclose a mental illness or addiction recovery on our resume if we ever hope to have any chance at being hired for a job.

Statistics show…

And it is estimated that 1 in 5 people have a mental disorder, and an estimated ten percent of adults in the US are in recovery from drug abuse or other addiction(s).

I actually absolutely believe that it is way, way, way more than 10 percent of people who have some kind of addiction! Yep, that statistic is totally wrong. I’m talking about things like pornography, sex addictions, gambling, cigarettes, caffeine, child or spousal abuse…or how about being so addicted to money that we sacrifice just about everything else? It’s possible to be addicted to so many detrimental things.

How Many Have You Met?

Perhaps a better question might be: who doesn’t have some kind of addiction or mental disorder? I would say that it’s arguably a fact that this would include (nearly) everyone.

I was talking to my best friend about hypocritical people being in every church I went to. He said something interesting and amusing. He said that we might all feel at home if everyone wore their sins on the outside for all to see.

How many people have you met who are mentally ill or in recovery from (some sort of) addiction? Of course, there is no way of knowing. But if we could know, would we still have/use/or share in most of the attached social stigma?

Is There A Relationship Between Mental Illness and Addiction?

There is much controversy and debate about the relationship between mental illness and addictions. Does one lead to the other? How much is genetic? How much is the result of trauma (like PTSD), or another environmental factor? Is one person at a higher risk than another?

We are learning more and more every day about the human brain, but most of the inner-workings remain a mystery. And here we are again in the realm of being ignorant or full of misinformation. It’s no wonder that a negative social stigma goes with mental illness, addictions, and recovery.

Fear and Hiding

Another thought I often entertain is that we – in our human condition – tend to fear that which we do not understand or have not experienced personally. This also makes it easy to associate a social stigma.

Have you ever looked at an alcoholic or “junkie” (a stigma label) on the streets and thought that the world might be better off without that person? How easily – under the necessary circumstances – might that be you?

I mentioned that none of us would list mental illness or addiction and recovery on our resume, as that ensures we will not be hired. Do you personally endure some sort of addiction or mental disorder? Do you want to deny it, but inside you know it’s true? And isn’t it absolutely necessary to hide it?

Why must we hide and deny such things when so many hundreds of thousands (or millions) of us have an addiction or mental disorder? Because of the ugly and unfair social stigma attached therein!

Brave Heroes!

These stigma labels place us in a most undesirable category of human beings. Indeed, they are both ugly and unfair social sitgma.

Like so much in this world…it doesn’t make sense and is destructive.

I honor and admire those who have overcome addiction and are in recovery! They are brave heroes all.

You Can Do Something asks you to acknowledge someone you know who is in recovery by giving them a reward or gift. would extend this invitation to those who are in recovery giving themselves a reward for all of their hardest work ever. Take a look around this website and see if something catches your eye!

And, if you have not already done so, please join the email insider right now!

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