Warning! The Face of Addiction and Mental Illness Isn’t Always What It Seems to Be


Media often portrays those with addiction or mental illness as having little to no money, little friends or family, unkempt appearances and no place to call home. While there are many people who do experience this, there are so many more people who don’t fit this particular image who struggle with addiction and mental illness as well. Unfortunately, many people who are “successful” and have a “great image” get overlooked because they “appear” to be just fine – even when they aren’t, and even when they’re seeking help. Chef, author, and TV host Anthony Bourdain, fashion designer Kate Spade and many other precious lives have recently died by suicide, and it’s shocked the nation. This tragedy has sparked a huge conversation about what addiction and mental illness truly looks like.

Dr. Stephanee Standefer, who runs a program at Northwestern University told The Fix that because Anthony Bourdain articulated his awareness to his mental health so well, she often used him as an example to encourage others to seek help. She stated,There’s a tendency to assume because he is who he is and he’s said he’s conquered it that he’s fine.”

They are many highly educated, highly successful people out there who experience addiction and/or mental illness on a daily basis. Problems do not discriminate – and buying into this belief only widens the gap for those who receive adequate support versus those who don’t. A 2017 study published in the journal PLOS One sought to explore firsthand experiences from those with addiction and mental illness in healthcare settings. Twenty-five participants between the ages of 23 and 67 were interviewed, with 17 being males. Participants reported being negatively stereotyped as “unworthy”, “different”, excluded from the decision-making process, “treated unfairly” and overall felt powerless in both health and dental care systems.

Previous research has identified that even in healthcare settings, discrimination and stereotyping still occurs – making this a major cause for concern. By assuming that a person is fine or overlooking them because they “appear” to be fine, we are denying that person’s chance to recover. We are essentially making up their mind before they even get a chance to seek the help they need. Hopefully as our nation continues to debate this topic, we can finally educate our communities that addiction and mental illness can happen with anyone – there is no certain race, ethnicity, origin, class, appearance, etc.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.