Navigating Stigma and Shame in Addiction Recovery: Strategies for Overcoming Internalized Barriers

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Addiction is a disease that impacts the lives of millions of people. But this doesn’t just mean physical addiction, it also means emotional and mental addictions. Addiction is an illness that can manifest itself in many ways and has often been associated with shame, stigma and judgment from society. Say’s Dr. Julian Mitton, the stigma around addiction has been perpetuated by certain aspects of society like media coverage, politics and religion but ultimately this causes an internalized barrier to effective recovery for many people suffering from substance use disorders.

What is stigma?

Stigma is the social devaluation of a person or group. Simply put, stigma can be internalized by the individual. When this happens, it’s called internalized stigma.

Internalized stigma occurs when someone who has been stigmatized by others takes on their perceptions and beliefs about themselves as being inferior or unworthy of respect or acceptance.

Why do we experience stigma?

The stigma of addiction is a form of discrimination. It’s a prejudice that manifests in social exclusion, which can result in shame and blame.

The reason we experience stigma is simple: it’s what people have been taught to believe about us–that our actions are bad or wrong, that we should be ashamed or embarrassed by them, that we’re different from “normal” people who don’t struggle with addictions (even though there is no one type).

How does stigma affect your recovery?

  • Stigma can prevent you from seeking help.
  • Stigma can prevent you from staying in treatment.
  • Stigma can prevent you from reaching out to friends and family.

How can you overcome stigma and shame in addiction recovery?

Stigma and shame are powerful forces that can keep you from getting help for your addiction, but they are not insurmountable. There are many ways you can overcome these barriers in your recovery process and move forward with your life.

  • Learn about the causes of stigma and shame
  • Understand why these feelings are normal reactions to addiction recovery
  • Learn about how to overcome internalized barriers through education, self-care and support

Breaking down the walls of shame and stigma are essential to overcoming addiction.

To overcome addiction, it is essential to break down the walls of shame and stigma that exist within yourself. Accepting yourself as a person who has been through an experience of trauma, who has made mistakes in life, and who is working hard to change is key to recovery. Being honest with yourself about your addiction and its causes will help you move forward towards recovery. Having a support network that includes other people who have experienced similar struggles can be invaluable when navigating the challenges of overcoming addiction.


We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, but the important thing to remember is that stigma and shame are real and they’re everywhere. You don’t have to face them alone though! Your recovery can be supported by others who understand what you’re going through, as well as by yourself if needed (and it probably will be). It’s also important not let stigma keep you from seeking help for yourself or others who need it; remember that there are many resources available for people at every stage of their recovery journey.

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