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How to Show Empathy for Addicts

A close-up shot of a couple holding hands because they show empathy to each other.
Couple holding hands on table together. Support, help, caring, forgiveness or apology. Man comforting sad woman. Compassion and empathy.

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When we find out a loved one is battling addiction, many of us have a similar reaction: how could they do this?

But the truth is, there’s a better question we could be asking: why would they do that?

The difference is the first one is blaming and shaming, while the second mindset is seeking to understand the why behind addiction. That’s called empathy, and research shows it’s a good place to start.

What’s Behind Addiction?

Although not true in all cases, research shows us that there’s often mental disorders accompanying addiction. It could be depression, anxiety, past abuse, childhood trauma, or attention deficit disorder.

In fact, nearly nine million U.S. adults have both a mental disorder and an addiction at the same time, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. But only a little over 7 percent of those people receive the treatment they need to get better.

Blaming someone for their addiction won’t get them the help they need. Showing empathy, on the other hand, may help them realize that there’s a solution for their pain.

Compassion for Drug Addicts: What It Isn’t

Living through a loved one’s addiction is like being in a snow globe that someone comes along and shakes violently for months or even years. You can be left disoriented and confused.

In such an environment, it’s easy to confuse empathy with enabling. Empathy is seeking to understand and pointing your loved one toward the light.

Enabling is giving your loved one money so they don’t have to go through withdrawal. It’s getting your own prescription for painkillers so that your loved one doesn’t have to buy them on the street. It’s making excuses and covering up for your loved one.

Your number one mission is to do whatever you possibly can to get your loved one into treatment.

Hope and Healing at The Raleigh House

The Raleigh House is a residential treatment center located in Denver, Colorado, that believes in a whole-person approach to recovery. Our team of experts work together to tackle both the physical and mental aspects of addiction. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about our drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.

Tap button to call The Raleigh House.

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