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Stigma Of Alcoholism

Stigma Of Alcoholism

When you think of alcoholism you might think of parents abandoning their children, homeless individuals drinking liquor out of wrinkled paper bags, toxicity or abuse in relationships, and more. But did you know that 75% of everyone who harbors an addiction eventually finds recovery? Yes, recovery is possible, and it happens every day. 

Many of those who fought for their recovery did so in a medical environment, like a residential or outpatient rehab facility. Unfortunately, according to a 2022 report published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, only around 5% of males and 3% of females sought treatment for their addiction

But why? If recovery is so reachable and rehab facilities are so helpful, why aren’t more people seeking treatment? What if we told you the Department of Public Health and Wellness in Kentucky reports one of the largest reasons people don’t seek treatment for alcoholism is stigma? At SUN Behavioral Kentucky, one of our goals is to break down the barriers preventing our community from seeking treatment. Arguably the most impactful barrier in Kentucky is the stigma surrounding alcoholism, and that’s what we’re discussing today.

The Stigmas & Stereotypes of Alcohol Use Disorder

The stigma that follows alcohol use disorder is social stigma – a type of stigma that involves a person believing the people around them hold prejudicial beliefs that will result in discrimination against them. In this case, feeling stigmatized means feeling like everyone around you is going to judge you and alienate you for your alcohol use. 

Many with alcohol use disorders are worried about telling their friends, families, and even doctors that they’re managing addiction. This isn’t something that’s “all in their heads”, either. Research shows that some healthcare professionals have biased views on patients with alcohol dependency, including the idea that alcoholics are “violent, manipulative, and poorly motivated to change.” 

When this kind of stigma is present, whether it’s from a doctor or loved ones,  it becomes likely that someone will experience self-stigma, or the idea that their alcohol use is shameful or lazy “behavior.” Because of this, those managing addiction and stigma are more likely to avoid seeking treatment.

Why Many Women With Alcohol Use Disorders Don’t Seek Treatment

As we discussed earlier, women are less likely to seek treatment for alcohol use disorder than men. It isn’t uncommon for many women to feel like they need to “have it all together” because they’re raising children, working to keep the peace at home, and handling a full-time job. It’s also difficult for some women to imagine leaving their children behind when they seek treatment, or for them to find acceptable and trusted child care that will allow them to attend outpatient programs. 

Additionally, research shows that women may require treatment specific to their needs. For example, many females who manage alcoholism also manage low self-esteem or mental health conditions. If those needs aren’t being met in treatment, it isn’t worth it to risk leaving her family or putting her life on hold for recovery. This isn’t something that all rehabilitation programs offer.

The Problem With Alcohol Stereotyping

The truth is simple: alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that can be fatal and often requires treatment. If someone you care about had diabetes, you wouldn’t tell them to simply stop eating. The more society stigmatizes alcoholism and neglects to look at the facts, the more people will succumb to their disorder. 

Creating a culture of judgment linked to alcoholism makes it hard for people to seek help. It can greatly impact mental health, lead to self-isolation, and perpetuate a cycle of shame. Stigma discourages open conversations about alcohol use disorder, and when it isn’t talked about, nothing can change for the better. It’s these open and honest conversations that prompt many men and women to seek help and find recovery. 

Using the Correct Words to Reduce Alcohol-Related Stigma

The words we use as parents, friends, teachers, therapists, or even strangers matter. Positive, recovery-centered language can help reduce stigma, encourage our loved ones to reach out, foster effective communication, and promote recovery. Using non-judgemental language can create a supportive environment and save lives. 

How To Beat the Stigma of Alcoholism One Word at a Time

If you’re curious about the correct language to use when discussing alcohol use disorder, congratulations. You’re one step closer to helping the person you love. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Use “person-first” language. This is very important, and it means creating a space in which your loved one knows you’re not seeing them as their condition. For example, someone with cancer doesn’t want to be thought of as “the friend with cancer.” They don’t want to be identified by their disease.  Instead of defining them as an “alcoholic”, put the person first. An example of this would be “someone who is managing an alcohol use disorder” or “someone who is in treatment for an alcohol use disorder.”
  • Throw away the words you used to use. Words like “alcoholic” and “disease” aren’t really used in the medical community anymore. Instead, try using “alcohol use disorder” or “substance use disorder.” These words help to obliterate stereotypes and promote understanding and empathy. Remember that alcohol dependency isn’t always a choice. It’s often a legitimate medical condition that causes over 140,000 deaths every year in the United States.
  • Stop focusing on the “behavior” associated with alcohol use disorder. Those managing an addiction are not “lazy”, “weak”, or “reckless.” This might be the behavior caused by the condition of alcohol use disorder, but it isn’t who the person is and it should never be how they’re referred to. This type of language perpetuates stigma and stereotypes, and it discourages people from seeking treatment. If they begin to believe there is something wrong or shameful at the core of who they are, they won’t be motivated to seek help. 


Getting Help With Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder can affect your life physically and mentally. If you’ve been drinking for a long time with no end in sight, liver disease is almost guaranteed. But it doesn’t need to be permanent, and you don’t need to live with that fear forever. At SUN Behavioral Health Kentucky, we offer programs to help you rediscover yourself and find lasting recovery.

Alcohol Detox

The alcohol detox at SUN Behavioral Kentucky is designed to safely and effectively treat our patients and get them through alcohol withdrawals and cravings. We provide:

  • Medication management for withdrawal symptoms
  • Group therapy twice a day
  • Life skills classes up to three times a day
  • Medical supervision from our supportive and friendly staff
  • A safe space to sleep, rest, and heal

This program typically lasts 3-5 days, depending on the individual. Patients follow the same schedule as those attending inpatient rehab.

Inpatient Treatment

Once the detox period is over, our patients can continue with their treatment while staying at our facility. Our inpatient treatment consists of daily therapy and mental health assessments to find out the root causes of alcohol use disorder. SUN Behavioral Kentucky has trained professionals that offer different therapies such as cognitive behavioral, group, and recreational. We also offer wellness programs to allow you to experience different hobbies such as yoga and nature hikes. This program is monitored 24/7 and provides a safe and stress-reducing environment.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient services offer the same healing and treatment options as an inpatient stay, but the patient goes home at night. Typically, patients are coming to the facility every day. They are still usually at the facility for extended periods of the day when they do come in, receiving various therapies and medication management.

Getting Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or someone you love is managing alcohol use disorder alone, there is help available. SUN Behavioral Health Kentucky is here to provide comprehensive treatment and hope. Call us today at 859-429-5188 to see how we can get you started on the path to recovery today.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why are alcohol users stigmatized?

The stigma that follows alcohol use disorder is social stigma – a type of stigma that involves a person believing the people around them hold prejudicial beliefs that will result in discrimination against them. In this case, feeling stigmatized means feeling like everyone around you is going to judge you and alienate you for your alcohol use. 

What mental health problems do alcoholics have?

Those with alcohol use disorder may be self-medicating for mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorders. 

Is alcohol a coping mechanism for mental health?

For some people, alcohol may be used as a way to self-medicate. This isn’t always the case, but it’s the #1 reason why mental health conditions need to be treated alongside alcohol use disorders. 

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SUN Behavioral Kentucky

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