Reasons People Hide Their Addictions From Family: And How Families Can HelpJanuary 22, 2019 - Addiction, Family Therapy - 0 Comments
When drug abuse takes over a person’s life, it can transform their behavior and their personality in ways that are obvious to their family members. However, other people do a better job of hiding their dependency and can fool their family into thinking that they don’t have a problem. But why would anybody with an addiction to opiates like heroin, benzodiazepines like Xanax, or substances like alcohol and methamphetamine try to hide their issue?
The reasons for hiding a drug problem are as diverse as the individuals who fall into the grips of opioids and other types of substances. However, the fundamental underlying influences of this behavior typically occur in most individuals hiding their abuse – shame and denial. Thankfully, families who are concerned about the mental health of their loved ones and addictive behaviors can help get them into a detox, 12 step, and dual-diagnosis program for their drug abuse.
Hidden Addictions Can Be Hard to Predict
People who hide their addictions suffer from what is known as a “hidden” addiction. An article in “Psychology Today” states that this problem isn’t as common as some may think because most people with addiction eventually “slip up” and display symptoms of their disease, such as using in front of the family, suffering from problems in the workplace, and much more. These issues often go hand-in-hand with addiction and feed each other in unpleasant and unhealthy ways.
In fact, this article goes so far as to say that people who are undergoing stress in their life – including in their relationships and at work – often suffer from co-occurring drug dependency. Depression, anxiety, trauma, and other issues with mental health often trigger people to abuse drugs, at a rate of about seven percent of the time. These addicted individuals are usually just ordinary people living their day-to-day lives and are not who you would consider a “cliched” drug addict. As a result, many can skillfully hide their drug abuse behind a curtain of normality.
But the genuinely tragic element of hidden addictions is the fact that people who suffer from them rarely get help. Instead, they try to mask the problem or try to deny that they have an issue. Anyone who has seen the television show “Intervention” likely remembers the story of the highly-successful man with an alcohol problem. This gentleman hid bottles around his home from which he could drink and firmly denied he had an issue until the bitter end when alcohol damaged his body so severely that he passed away without getting any rehab help.
The most terrifying thing about hidden drug abuse, though, is the way that it sneaks up on a person and slowly takes over their lives. Addictions don’t occur overnight but only through sustained and repeated abuse. As a result, individuals with hidden addictions may just not notice that they have developed a problem. Instead, they believe that they have their abuse entirely in control. Sadly, a vast majority of people in this situation do not.
Thankfully, the same “Psychology Today” article helpfully listed some common symptoms of a hidden addiction. For example, they stated that people who suffer from alcoholism typically have slurred speech and skin with a yellow tint due to problems with their liver. By contrast, people abusing opiates may appear excessively sleepy, could behave in strange ways, and may be regularly constipated. Stimulant abuse typically triggers issues such as paranoia and lesions on the skin that fail to heal.
The most startling fact about these symptoms is not just their severity but how hard many individuals will work to hide them from their family. In fact, some individuals may work harder to deny their drug use than obtaining substances to abuse. Why are people suffering from a real health problem so unlikely to reveal it to the world or seek detox, dual-diagnosis, and other types of recovery and rehab methods?
Shame Figures Heavily Into This Behavior
Though many factors may lead to a person hiding their addiction, shame is likely the most significant motivational force. Though individuals with an addiction shouldn’t be ashamed of their disease, social perceptions often inspire issues with personal loathing and confusion. These feelings are unfair to a person with a condition that can be treated: after all, do we feel shame when we suffer from the flu or make excuses not to get treatment due to our embarrassment?
Of course not, but addiction is a different type of disease with more complex factors rooted in a person’s behavior. For example, the study “The Shame of Addiction” states that addiction is a “personal-level phenomenon” that they define as a failure of normal rational behavior when paired with a specific substance. The physical and mental issues that often trigger substance abuse makes it very hard for a person to control their actions, which can trigger high levels of shame.
Simply put, individuals with an addiction blame themselves for their failure and often fall into a self-abusive cycle that makes it easier for them to justify hiding their addiction. And while this study claims that “shame without blame” is a powerful way of triggering a recovery in a rehab environment, it also asks that individuals of loved ones with a substance abuse problem understand the factors behind this issue and to avoid triggering social self-stigma in their loved ones.
What is self-stigma? As defined by the study “Stigma and Self-Stigma in Addiction,” self-stigma is personal demonization triggered by the public’s stigmatization of a person with substance abuse. This problem occurs when an individual starts thinking of themselves as “shameful” or “immoral” due to their drug problem. This model of behavior often becomes a “looping” pattern that feeds in on itself and creates a feedback effect that can be hard from which to escape.
In fact, that statement is a good place to transition to the next major contributing factor in hidden addiction: public perceptions and misunderstandings of drug abuse. Individuals who hide their drug use are not only victims of this public perception but also participate in it due to their shame in their disease and their attempts to hide it from their family.
Public Perception Also Impacts This Situation
As hinted throughout previous sections, public perception of drug abuse is a huge reason that people hide their drug abuse. Simply put, the general public just doesn’t understand the nature of substance abuse and make the – sadly, still common – mistake of blaming the victim of the disease for the disease rather than understanding how drugs change a person’s body chemistry.
For example, the study “Public Perceptions of Behavioral and Substance Addictions” took a look at how the public perceived drug abuse or understood the ways it affected a person. A majority of individuals polled believed that behavioral signs of impaired behavior – such as the “nod” individuals get on benzos or opiates – as the best way to diagnose addiction. This perception is very inaccurate and paired with the stigmatization most people in the study felt towards those who abused drugs.
This problem was further explored in the study “Stigma, Discrimination, Treatment Effectiveness, and Policy: Public Views About Drug Addiction and Mental Illness,” a very detailed examination of the ways that people perceived those who suffered from drug addiction. This study was unique because it paired substance abuse with issues of mental health and asked these people what kind of problems contribute to drug abuse and its development.
While the public better understands mental health and its underlying issues, drug addiction is still poorly understood. In fact, most people in the survey stated that they believed drug abuse was a “moral” failing, not a disease, and that it was something that a person should be ashamed of experiencing. This perception was a sharp change from the judgment of mental illness, even though addiction is classified as a mental illness.
Even more shockingly, many individuals polled not only had a negative perception of those with drug addiction but actively opposed insurance coverage for rehab, sober housing communities for those suffering from drug abuse, and employment policies that helped these individuals get back on their feet. It may be hard for those who fully understand the impact of addiction to understand these perceptions, but they do remain a persistent problem in the general public.
Though these perceptions weren’t a universal belief among those polled, the fact that they were common in over half of those surveyed (about 60 percent) shows that many individuals in this country just want to write off those who suffer from addiction as “immoral” individuals who are not “strong enough” to “help themselves.” Most people in the study didn’t consider dependency a disease at all and firmly blamed the person with the addiction rather than the substance and its neurological and physical interaction with the body.
With this level of severe misunderstanding of drug abuse, who could blame anybody for hiding their substance use? These individuals may have heard family members and friends disparage others who abused drugs in the past or – very likely – were hard on those same people themselves. To suddenly find themselves in the throes of addiction – and surrounded by family members who do not understand their problem – most individuals are likely to hide their problem as much as possible.
Thankfully, a person’s family can take control of this situation and provide their loved one with the recovery tools that they need to overcome their dependency on various types of substances. This step can be a rather difficult one for many families to understand, though, and requires a good understanding of the power of high-quality recovery methods.
Why the Family is a Powerful Tool for Recovery
Families concerned about their loved ones drug abuse need to take affirmative steps to bring it out into the open and to force their loved one to acknowledge the problem. For example, the article “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy” stated that families of all types – including traditional nuclear families, extended families, and elected families such as a group of friends – are the most powerful tools for helping someone overcome drug abuse.
Family therapy is just one method for helping someone with an addiction. This therapy method brings families together with an addicted individual and works to understand the source of their addictive patterns of behavior. The family then creates a support group that the individual can use to feel better about themselves and to transition to a drug-free life.
Just as importantly, families can help to steer their loved one into a high-quality rehab program to manage their addiction. Essentially, a family can force someone to assess their problem – often in an intervention environment – and help this individual better understand the impact of their addiction. Often, merely letting the person know how it affects their loved ones is enough to force them out of hiding and to confront their problem head-on.
The most important step in this process is understanding the nature of addiction and avoiding judgment of your loved one. Remember that drugs change the ways that your loved one behaves and often forces them to do things that they wouldn’t normally do. Be supporting of your loved one even if they let you down and you can help increase their chances of success.
How Rehab Can Help
As you can see, the family is a powerful tool for an individual’s recovery from substance abuse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBD is particularly important here, as is dual-diagnosis treatment. For example, the study “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Substance Use Disorders” stated that CBD provided a powerful tool for recovery in those affected by addiction. A similar study also produced results that were on par with those in the first.
Therefore, individuals with depression, anxiety, and PTSD should contact us today to get the help that they need to beat drugs for good. Our professionals have worked with people like you and have even experienced addiction in their lives. As a result, you will get fine-tuned and effective rehab treatment from individuals who genuinely care about you and who understand the pain you are experiencing.