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How To Talk To a Person Suffering From Addiction?

February 15, 2021
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod
How To Talk To a Person Suffering From Addiction?

The following blog has been reviewed by a Psychologist. If you are reading the blog on a mobile phone, you can see the reviewer’s profile at the end of the blog. Please see our editorial policy here.

Stigma is a common issue with health problems ranging from HIV to various mental health problems. While there has been some progress in the past relating to various diseases, a lot more work needs to be done for substance use and mental health-related stigma. People with addiction problems continue to get the blame for developing the disease. Even though many medicines flood the market for its treatment, the dangling mental health of the individual often causes more problems. 

The mark of disgrace associated with the addiction developed over time can work as a barrier in treating the disease to its potential. For instance, if an individual develops alcohol addiction after consistent use and abuse, apart from facing mental health challenges, they also have to face shame and embarrassment from near and dear ones. This combination of public shame and stigma produces numerous obstacles while addressing addiction problems and their consequences.

Table of Content

How Addiction Causes Mental Health Problems?

People use substances to stimulate a feeling of reward or relief in the brain that can develop into addiction over time. Especially individuals with underlying mental health problems may use substances to seek relief or self-medicate. However, its persistent use and abuse can turn into addiction due to the psychoactive properties of drugs and alcohol

The interconnection between substance use and mental health disorder is concerning, especially in the case of underlying depression. A person may suffer from serious withdrawals if they stop consuming drugs or alcohol. When the effect wears off it manifests in anxiety. It is not a standalone problem caused by addiction, there have been many others such as hallucination, depression, impaired vision, and reduced decision-making power. 

Taking the example of alcohol, which acts as a depressant, its abuse can cause major depressive disorders to surface. Psychiatrists and psychologists are conducting extensive research to get a clear picture of its causes and multiple symptoms. However, it takes time and patience to review the findings and suggest a tailored treatment modality.

Addiction begins with substance abuse that interferes with normal cognitive behaviours or brain functioning. It, however, can leave the person with long-term brain damage with severe withdrawal symptoms. Since addiction can be both physical and psychological, the brain may develop a certain type of disorder over time. 

  • Physical Addiction: A human body becoming dependent on the drug or alcohol for its normal functioning. If stopped abruptly, the person may face severe withdrawal symptoms, which in rare cases can also be fatal. 
  • Psychological Addiction: Consuming drugs or alcohol gives the brain a feeling of reward or relief, making them crave for more. When the desire to consume a substance overpowers the mind, it can cause major mental health problems.

People who become dependent on substances face the threat of developing life-threatening diseases or chronic illnesses that lead them to relapse more than recover. Also, the changes in behavioural symptoms may affect their relations with family, friends, and co-workers significantly. 

Physical and Psychological Symptoms of Addiction

When an individual has psychological or physical addiction, they may show some symptoms that are beneficial for diagnosing their problems and getting the right help on time.

Physical Symptoms

  • Insomnia or irregular sleeping habits
  • Craving drugs to maintain the same high
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Seizures
  • Restlessness or anxiety
  • Spending more time alone

Psychological Symptoms

  • Seeing substance abuse as a solution than being a problem
  • Consistent drug use or overdose
  • Stealing or selling items to procure the substance
  • Withdrawing from social situations
  • Befriending other substance people with similar addiction problems
  • Lost interest in any other activity not relating to drugs or alcohol
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Problems at the workplace or with friends and other relationships
  • Developing dangerous behaviours like drunk driving or getting into physical fights
  • Depression
  • Impaired decision-making

How To Talk To a Person Suffering From Addiction?

Humans instinctively do not know how to talk to a person suffering from addiction problems. Moreover, communicating with them becomes difficult, especially when you have supported them for the same earlier. Making changes in the way a person interacts with another person having substance use problems may show positive outcomes. 

As a normal individual may not know the correct way to interact with people with addiction, the following pointers may be helpful. Taking notes of the following dos and don’ts may help change the behaviour of the person with addiction develop trust, which can further help in getting the right help.

  1. Be Gentle

The little acts of kindness can bring significant changes to any man walking on earth. When it comes to people with addiction, it has the same effect. Showing kindness and being gentle through everyday behaviour can help bring change in their attitude towards addiction. People with addiction generally face backlash or shame from everyone in their society.

Accepting the person and understanding their problems can become the first step towards their betterment. Being gentle and accepting builds the bridge towards recovery while giving them the strength to deal with addiction related stigma. 

  1. Listen More 

With addiction come the various challenges of mental health making the recovery process hard. An individual suffering from addiction problems has to deal with the stigma that’s attached to it, criticism of their choices, and rejection from friends and family, which is already enough to push them towards taking harsh decisions. 

They may need a friend or someone to tell them that they are being heard. Only listening to them and giving them support can become a major step in the right direction. If you know anyone who suffers from such a condition, try listening to them more than giving suggestions or advice. 

You must note that you may or may not agree with their choices but building the trust to open up more about their internal battles can help them see it through a different lens. Addiction can happen for multiple reasons. If you listen more than talking, the person with addiction may end up sharing everything, giving a head start to their treatment.

  1. Show Love and Support

Dealing with the stigma of addiction comes with a lot of mental health challenges. Showing them love and support can help make the process easier. Society is already criticising them for being an addict or for developing the disease, your unconditional love and concern can help relieve them of the pain.

Show them your genuine concern irrespective of their choices. However, it does not mean that you have to support their unreasonable habits or decisions. Your love and care may show them the light they have been missing.  

  1. Create Boundaries

In the process of helping them keep checking that you are yourself feeling alright. Listening to someone in distress or trying to help them can sometimes be exhausting. If they are unwilling to change and making it hard for you to live together, let them know gently of the implications. You can also consult a professional psychologist or psychiatrist. It is easy for people to assume that the concerned person’s recovery is their responsibility, but you need to remind yourself that all you can do is support them, the will and action has to come from their side. Make sure you’re not putting your own mental health at stake while trying to help them. 

An individual with addiction can make unreasonable decisions that may have the ability to harm them or their loved ones. While sharing your concern and love is helpful, you do not have to agree with the  choices they make. Do not be scared to create boundaries for their addiction. However, creating boundaries should not seem like a threat or punishment rather a genuine concern for them to get better. 

  1. Support Their Transformation

Counselling is the initial step towards change. While they may agree to change for the better, their enthusiasm may have lower intensity than yours. Through consistent therapy sessions, an individual can help see their mental health get stronger by day. Their process of change must always come with your support. 

Having a support system or another person to rely on makes the process easier. For better results, you can also suggest they go for couple or family therapy sessions, which makes them feel supported. 

  1. Be Consistent and Predictable

Living with a person with addiction problems is not everyone’s cup of tea. While proper communication is essential, concern for them must be shown through actions as well as words. Be consistent and clear with your message for their betterment for them to not take you otherwise.

Apart from this, set an example for being predictable with actions and words. Do not surprise them as it can become stressful for future situations of a similar manner. Share your concerns over dinner but not with a glass of wine.

Getting the Right Help

Denial is an unfortunate symptom of any addiction. If you are not able to get through the said person, it is not your fault. However, you can always take a step back and let them know you are here if they need help anytime. People suffering from addiction often feel the burden of societal stigma and shame, including the fear of being reported to the authorities. It often becomes an obstacle for them to seek the right help.

Once you have established trust with them, help them get the right help. Search multiple alternatives for initiating their treatment process while reminding them change is possible. Share all the useful information and let them choose. As long as similar results are achieved, let them do things their way rather than imposing your opinion on them. 

Helping Your Loved Ones Fight Addiction

There is no single formula for telling family or friends how to talk to a person with an addiction. It is always a combination of multiple dos and don’ts. You can initiate the conversation when they are sober or in a condition to understand your concern. Conversations are always a two-way street, therefore, give them all the chances to speak. Your goal here is their recovery so accusing them of wrong choices or blaming them can have adverse effects. Since they are vulnerable, they need all the help they can get and who better than their loved ones.