Stigmas surrounding words like “addiction,” “recovery,” or “treatment” are challenging to overcome. Veterans face an abundance of these barriers on their journey toward a sober future. 

For veterans of the armed forces, traumatic experiences and injuries are common. Some studies report up to 30% of those deployed show signs of trauma, making post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), survivor’s guilt, substance abuse, and more all prevalent among military personnel. 

However, stigmas take many forms, and there are no single way veterans battle stigmas and their effects. Challenging the various types of the stigma associated with treatment and recovery is necessary to make the most of attending rehab in Hawaii.

The Dangers of Prevalent Stigmas

While the effects of stigmas can feel universal, the way in which a person battles various forms of stigma vary. Stigmas are defined as anything that leaves an individual feeling ashamed, disapproved of, or ostracized. 

Stigmas around addiction recovery can cause an individual to feel as if they must choose between pursuing recovery or retaining a degree of social status within a community. For veterans of the armed forces, these stigmas can be even more jarring. 

Where military personnel is expected to be bastions of unending strength, protection, and self-reliance, pursuing professional treatment to challenge trauma or substance abuse can stand in contrast to these ideas. Often, veterans may feel as if they have somehow “failed” if they admit the need for professional help, which results in the avoidance of centers for alcohol and drug treatment altogether.

The unwillingness to compromise this aspect of identity can be detrimental to mental health. While stigmas are unfortunately prevalent among all communities, veterans face even greater stigmas in regard to their emotional well-being. Overcoming these social barriers and committing to sobriety is a powerful act of courage. Identifying the various forms of stigma at play can empower veterans to take dedicated action to challenge these thoughts in a variety of ways. 

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The Different Forms of Stigma

Stigmas can be classified into three distinct groups: public stigmas, self-imposed stigmas, and anticipated stigmas. Each of these categories can affect an individual in profound ways. However, understanding each form encourages veterans to challenge themselves more effectively, paving the way for a transformative recovery experience in their ongoing recovery. 

#1. Public Stigmas

Public stigmas are misconceptions that result from a larger social group. This often manifests as being publically antagonistic toward a certain trait. 

For veterans, this can commonly come in the perception of military culture; this is where strength, self-reliance, confidence, and other such traits are celebrated, and anything else is perceived as some kind of “weakness.” This misconception can leave an individual feeling trapped between their need for recovery and their community and fearful of being disconnected from these social groups. 

While some veterans may fear that they will be perceived differently by their peers, others may worry that they would be blamed for pursuing treatment due to a personal or moral failing, despite how fictitious such thoughts may be. 

#2. Self-Imposed Stigmas

Self-imposed stigmas are beliefs that an individual inhabits themself that often lead to creating unnecessary personal barriers to treatment and recovery. These are thoughts that compromise one’s ability or willingness to pursue treatment for a variety of reasons. Some may exhibit a compromised sense of self-worth. This leaves an individual feeling as if they don’t deserve a healthy, happy life, while others may believe that they are beyond help at all. 

These stigmas may also stem from disbelief in the recovery process as a whole. An individual may view recovery as unnecessary or pointless before truly engaging in a dedicated veteran program. Others may feel they will lose aspects of their identity if they choose to pursue treatment, or as if they “should not need” dedicated recovery or have an internalized feeling of shame or guilt acting as a palpable barrier to treatment.

#3. Anticipated Stigmas

Anticipated stigmas are those that surround how pursuing treatment and recovery may affect the future, which can stifle an individual’s recovery efforts before they begin. Some may believe that they will have limited employment or advancement opportunities if they are engaged in recovery. Others may believe that they will be negatively judged in the future due to their need for support. 

Regardless of the form of stigma an individual is facing, the barriers created are difficult to navigate. However, dedicated veteran programs are curated to address how each type of stigma affects veteran experiences and identity. Connecting an individual with peers with similar needs and goals can deconstruct these stigmas one day at a time to create a positive view of their future. 

While stigmas act as a palpable barrier to recovery and sobriety, we at Hawaii Island Recovery are committed to breaking down these barriers and creating an atmosphere of acceptance, healing, and camaraderie. We understand the emotional journey of recovery and are prepared to help you break through these stigmas while building new recovery strategies, and coping mechanisms, and creating a community of peers and professionals alike to understand and support you each step of the way. Our dedicated veteran program allows us to provide high-quality trauma-informed care to address the unique challenges that veterans face each and every day, all while promoting personal, social, and spiritual growth. For more information on how our rehab in Hawaii can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique needs and goals in recovery, call Hawaii Island Recovery today at (866) 390-5070.