Stigma can reduce the addicted person to a tainted, discounted, and attributed to deeply discrediting stereotypes in society. This is so because the addicted person is seen as disqualified from full social acceptance. Therefore, Stigma is a central obstacle to recovery for persons with addictions. This so because individuals suffering from addictions may experience rejections, emotional imbalances after disclosing their addictions at work. However, the self-disclosure is the main step toward successfully addressing the stigma associated with addictions such as alcohol. Therefore, the paper will evaluate the benefits and harmful impact of disclosing an addiction at work.
There are several of types of stigma that may affect or benefit the addicted person at the work after disclosing his or her addiction. Structural or institutional stigma refers to macroscopic patterns of discrimination toward those with substance misuse that can be explained at the person psychological level alone. This type of stigma can be either intentional or unintentional. Intentional stigma refers to the policies, rules and procedures of private and public institutions and structure with power that deliberately restrict the rights and opportunities of the stigmatized group in the society or at work. Intentional structural stigma toward addicted group could include laws and tax codes that provide insufficient levels of funding for addiction treatment compared to other health conditions (Johnson, 2011).
Meanwhile, this could include harsh sentencing laws for crack cocaine verses powder cocaine. On the other hand, unintentional stigma refers to instances where policies, rules and procedures result in discrimination, apparently without the conscious prejudicial efforts of a powerful few. For instance, the lower wages and poorer benefits paid to substance abuse treatment professional compared to other health care workers, leading in poorer quality care. Another significant example of unintentional structural stigma would be the exclusion of substance abuse treatment benefits from the Mental health parity act, resulting in less accessibility of addiction treatment services.
It is possible that the prevailing negative attitude towards substance abuse such as alcohol might contribute to work practices that symbolize structural stigma. For instance, prevalent attitudes that people who are addicted to alcohol or other substances are blameworthy and have no chance of recovering from addiction might make it less likely that the public would be supportive of spending a portion of their tax dollars on treatment. This situation has been experienced in Germany, where some people reported that during an economic crisis, they would prefer to cut funding for mental illness and addiction treatment before reducing funding for physical problems (Kennett, 2013).
At the individual level, stigma at work can be divided into two types which include public and self-stigma. The most obvious is the public stigma that can affect an individual at work. The public stigma refers to the reaction the general public has toward the stigmatized group. This may include stereotypes and attitudes toward the addicted person at work as well as acts of discrimination that bring stigma. Rejection by a coworker following discovery of person’s addiction history, denial of a job opportunity because employer suspects an applicant is in recovery or disparaging remarks about people with addictive disorders are all examples of enacted stigma (Khaleghi and Gove, 2008). People abusing substance or alcoholic frequently encounters enacted stigma that affects their work adversely.
Similarly, the second type of individual level stigma is that of self-stigma which refers to difficulty thoughts and feelings that emerge from identification with a stigmatized group and their resulting behavioral impact. For instance, a person experiencing addictions or in recovery might neglect treatment, stop working or shun intimate social relationships at work or in society. This is due to self stigma which make them not to trust themselves to fulfil these roles or fear rejection based on their substance using identity. Among the population with severe addictions, self stigma has been associated with seeking treatment late, diminished self-esteem and self-efficacy. Perceived stigma is a component of self-stigma that refers to beliefs among members of a stigmatized group about the level of public stigma at work. A result of perceived stigma people may limit their actions at work in attempts to avoid stigmatization.
Despite vast of available research on prejudice, stereotyping, social categorization, discrimination and social deviance among others, the amount of the stigma literature relating these processes particularly to addicted persons is quite sparse. Research indicates that stigma, discrimination against addicted persons at work serves to discourage the abuser, and that the possible negative effects of stigma are relatively minor compared to the deterrent value of stigmatization (Johnson, 2011). Another substantial body of research from a law enforcement and criminal justice views indicate that disclosing addictions at work may have a positive form of social control which discourages illegal activity. This is so because the addicted person may face stigma which will enable them to withdraw from addictions and other illegal activities associated with addiction.
Other researches from a recovery perspective indicate that disclosing the addiction at work may have negative consequences to the addicted person. However, this research ignores the possibility that disclosing the addiction at work may have both beneficial and harmful effects based on the context in which it is found. This is so because of the many stigma at work may serve as a barrier to entering treatment because of fear of being labeled and stigmatized by others. For others, experiences of being stigmatized at work and judged by coworkers might serve as a motivator for treatment entry. However, the effect of stigma at work might change again after a person enters treatment (Johnson, 2011). This is so because those experiencing more self-stigma may stay in treatment for longer periods may be benefiting more from treatment.
On the other hand, the impact of self-stigma may impede recovery by reducing addicted person motivation and creating negative beliefs about their ability to recover, which can result in earlier relapse. Therefore, some people may be quite unaffected by stigma at work after disclosing addictions because of personal conditions which help guard against its impact or because they do not identify with a stigmatized group at work. Moreover, the increased experiences of stigma-related rejection at work may serve as a barrier to engagement with healthy, non-drug-using social relationships, return to work or obtain reasonable living arrangements (Khaleghi and Gove, 2008). This range of possibilities suggests that simple judgments about the goodness or badness of disclosing addictions at work may be insufficient in understanding the role of stigma in the development of addictions and recovery from addictions.
Consequently, the psychological impact of stigma after disclosing addiction at work on an individual can be described under the term self-stigma. Self-stigma can be referred to as shame, evaluative thoughts and fear of an enacted stigma. This result from an individual’s identification with a stigmatized group and serves as a barrier to the pursuit of the valued career goals. The predominant stereotypes about stigmatized groups are widely known in a given culture such as working environment.
Self-stigma comes about when a person first sees himself or herself as a member of a stigmatized group. This will increase this negative stereotypes and biases at work because the addicted person is also applying it to the self. For instance, when the person disclosing the addictions that referring to him or herself as “addicts,” the relevant stereotypes at work will be addicts are irresponsible, who once applied to another now apply to himself or herself (Khaleghi and Gove, 2008). This will make addicted people believe in this stereotype and are likely to impede their own chances for success even not applying for position or jobs that would require them to be responsible.
The dominant stereotypes of marginalized groups are largely negative and been demonstrated to be associated with a number of psychological benefits such as improved psychological and physical health which improve morale at work. In contrast, disclosure of a stigma could result in social rejection and isolation, the loss of a job, rejection by coworkers, judgment from treatment professionals and disappointment that others were not more helpful. Therefore, the research on secrecy as a method of coping with the stigma of addiction is relatively scarce and what exist is somewhat crude. This is so because it examines secrecy as a generalized tendency in response to the fear of stigma rather than examining the patterns of disclosure and how they might interact with social context. As a rule, the use of secrecy and withdrawal from others as a coping mechanism has been associated with negative psychosocial outcomes (Jolene, 2012). However, disclosing addictions at work may also affect the likelihood of a positive outcome from disclosure.
Therefore, coping processes such as secrecy, withdrawing efforts from valued domains and searching for potential threats could be seen as forms of a wider process referred to as experiential avoidance. It refers to attempts to avoid, control or reduce the frequency of painful emotions, thoughts, memories and other private experiences after disclosing addictions at work. The experiential avoidance usually overlaps with several closely related concepts such as lack of distress tolerance, cognitive and emotional suppression among others (Steven, 2007). Therefore, it has been demonstrated to contribute to a variety of psychological and behavioral problems at work, including depression, anxiety, psychosis and burnout among others (Chapman, 2012). Since experiential avoidance has been shown to be modifiable via mindfulness and acceptance based interventions, this suggests that disclosing addictions and acceptance may be helpful in coping with stigma at work.
In a recap, disclosing addictions at work can compound existing social inequalities. For instance, the stigma of substance abuse has disproportionately affected the African-American community in the United States. Many treatments for addiction in the United States are relatively poor, which make it hard to cope with the stigma of addictions at working environments. Therefore, disclosing of the addictions as contributed largely to status loss and discrimination at some working environment. This is so because when people are labeled, set apart and associated with undesirable traits, a basis is established for devaluing, rejecting and excluding them from work and social activities. Some people may be relatively unaffected by stigma at work after disclosing addictions because of personal conditions which help them guard against stigma impact at work. Similarly, they will stand stigma because they do not identify with a stigmatized group at work. In contrast, disclosing addictions might affect the addicted person because of rejection and discrimination at work. Therefore, disclosing addictions can have both beneficial and harmful impact to an individual at work and society. However, disclosing information can help the people suffering from addictions to recover.
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