Course: CJ 368L
Date Submitted: October 23, 2014
There are many mental and physical conditions that affect people, however alcohol dependence is more stigmatized than then others. Over the course of recovery and life in general for alcoholics, they are negatively impacted by the stigma society imposes. A stigma can serve as a barrier to seeking and receiving treatment for alcoholic. A stigma also leads to discrimination.
Stigma is a “Set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something” (Merriam-Webster). Stigma is a degrading attitude that people have towards a person or group of people because of a condition that they have or suffer from. A stigma could be targeted towards for an illness, religion, weight, nationality, deformity, sexual, or preference. A stigma can result from a perception. “Stigma is a Greek word that in its origins referred to a type of marking or tattoo that was cut or burned into the skin of criminals, slaves, or traitors in order to visibly identify them as blemished or morally polluted persons. These individuals were to be avoided or shunned, particularly in public places” (Wikipedia).
A stigma does not only affect the individual suffering from the illness or condition. A stigma can also affect the family as well. A stigma can affect an individual by making them not want to admit that they have an issue. A stigma discourages treatment because of the individual feeling embarrassed or ashamed to admit the issue. It causes a negative impact on a stigmatized individual’s self worth which can amount to destructive behavior. It can cause social withdrawal or the use of other addicting substances. A stigma may also cause the family to feel too embarrassed to admit that a family member has a health issue or condition. In this case the family might not provide the support the individual needs to seek treatment. Addiction is a sickness that can be helped by medical intervention, however most people view it as individual flaw or personal problem.
Some stigmas I can recall hearing about alcoholics were that they are abusive, stink, cannot hold jobs, and rob people. In reality they function in society just like the others. Alcoholics can be friends, family, or coworkers. Sure some of the people that are dependent on alcohol can engage in these behaviors, the majority of them adhere to the society norms. When sober people do morally wrong things we don’t create stigmas about them.
Alcoholism is stigmatized compared to other health conditions because alcoholism comes with warning steps. Alcoholism is a condition that does not form overnight nor is a individual born with it. “Alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive disease that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect (physical dependence), or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. If you have alcoholism, you can't consistently predict how much you'll drink, how long you'll drink, or what consequences will occur from your drinking” (Mayo Clinic). There are four phases to alcoholism, pre-alcoholic phase, prodromal phase, crucial phase, and chronic phase. Unlike other health conditions, a person changing their drinking habits can cure alcoholism. Society typically sees alcoholism as a self-inflicted sickness compared to other conditions or illnesses. Society typically does not show empathy for alcoholism because they believed the individual could have stopped before the addiction got out of control. Alcoholism carries a stigma because drinking