Author: James Anderson

Addiction: What Is Denial?

alcoholism and denial

Imagining a life without alcohol might feel too difficult and scary. Denial is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a refusal to admit the truth or reality of something.” In psychology, it’s a defense mechanism to avoid confronting a personal problem. It’s extremely common for people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) to resist the reality of their drinking problem. Many people with the disorder lie and blame others for their actions.

In most cases, someone who relies on alcohol and drugs will continue to be in denial about their addiction until their problems become impossible to ignore. This could happen in the form of an overdose or other major health event, legal trouble, or relationship strain or loss. An important first step in addressing addiction is to recognize and accept how alcohol and substance use is impacting your life. But if you’re in denial about whether your alcohol and substance use is actually unhealthy and causing you problems, it can prevent you from getting help. In many cases, the blaming and lying will not stop until the alcoholic admits to having a drinking problem.

  1. People who are displaying denial are typically using it as a way to avoid facing truths that they are unable to deal with.
  2. We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  3. Usually, people envision drug or alcohol use when they think about addiction.
  4. As the person’s drinking continues to worsen over time, the consequences related to alcoholism increase.
  5. While you can’t make the choice for them, there’s a lot you can do to help a loved one who’s living with alcoholism.

In short, “there’s not a single image of AUD,” points out Sabrina Spotorno, a clinical social worker and alcoholism and substance abuse counselor at Monument. But not everyone living with alcohol use disorder experiences the same level of denial, if they experience it at all. Your loved one may be aware of some of the effects of alcohol use, but not of others.

This helpline is answered by Ark Behavioral Health, an addiction treatment provider with treatment facilities in Massachusetts and Ohio. It allows a person with an alcohol use disorder to dismiss all warning signs that their alcohol abuse has become a problem. There may be many reasons why someone is hesitant to seek help — from lack of awareness to stigma and shame. When you’re worried about being judged or confronted about something, honesty can take a back seat. It may be easier for the person with alcohol use disorder to hide the truth than to be honest about their drinking habits.

Helpful resources

Avoid criticizing and shaming, and focus on highlighting your love and concern. Acknowledge the positives and listen to their response, even if you don’t agree. There are several signs of denial to look out for in your loved ones or in yourself. Be aware of the common forms of denial, and consider whether they are familiar to you. If you think someone you know is in denial about their drug or alcohol use, try to be understanding and supportive. We are here to provide assistance in locating an Ark Behavioral Health treatment center that may meet your treatment needs.

alcoholism and denial

For those dependent on a substance, talking to a healthcare provider is the best way to develop a plan for detoxing safely. In the pre-contemplation stage, someone may not view themselves as having an addiction or be willing to evaluate their actions (denial). As the behavior continues, a person may begin to reckon with the idea that there may be a problem (contemplation). Loved ones sometimes protect the person who is experiencing an alcohol problem, making excuses for their poor behaviors and failure to manage responsibilities. In addition to supporting your own mental health, this serves as a role model to your loved one.

As a result, many people hide their disease from the public. The disease affects neurochemistry, and alcoholics typically refuse to believe they have an alcohol use disorder. In some instances, their denial causes them to fail to recognize how their substance abuse is affecting their lives. Protecting, rescuing, and secondary denial are all ways that people close to alcoholics enable their addictive behaviors.

Depression and Addiction

Sometimes, it may be easier for your loved one with alcohol use disorder to avoid talking about it completely. When you bring up drinking around someone living with alcohol use disorder, they may act as though your concerns are trivial. Each person has a different experience and insight on their relationship with alcohol.

People using denial are unlikely to admit they use alcohol heavily and that their relationship with alcohol is unhealthy. This can be very frustrating for friends and family, but there are ways to make a conversation easier. For many who struggle with alcohol use disorder, it’s much easier to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. That way, there’s no need to make major lifestyle changes or face difficult emotions. They don’t have to open themselves to judgment or navigate the unknown challenges of treatment.

While some may have reached a place of awareness, others may still be trying to understand the seriousness of their condition. Denial is one of the biggest barriers to treatment for alcohol addiction. When people can’t admit to having a problem, there’s no way to find a solution. You can never force someone to accept their AUD or make someone quit drinking. Starting treatment needs to be a choice, and the person with AUD needs to be ready to make it. It can be difficult to help someone with AUD who is in denial about their drinking, but there are ways you can start the conversation.

Offering Protection To People With Alcoholic Denial

But staying in denial is harmful because it prevents you from seeking help or addressing a situation. Denial is when someone ignores, downplays, or distorts reality. You may use denial as a way to protect yourself from having to see, deal with, or accept the truth about what’s happening in your life.

Research suggests that denial may be experienced by people with alcohol use disorder. First, don’t make excuses for them or enable their drinking. If you cover for your loved one by lying to their boss, for example, they won’t experience the negative consequences of their drinking and will remain in denial. For some people, outpatient programs with therapy treatment sessions are a great way to start the recovery journey.

When a loved one has a drinking problem, it’s hard to know how to help, especially if they are in denial. But if you or someone you know is showing signs of denial, don’t feel discouraged. You can also visit the NIAAA Rethinking Drinking website or read the NIAAA treatment guide to learn more about alcohol use disorder and to find help for your loved one. If you or someone you know is living with alcohol use disorder, there are a number of resources that can help. Unlike denial, which is a coping mechanism, anosognosia is the result of changes to the frontal lobe of the brain.

The person with alcohol use disorder may try to justify their behaviors or offer reasonable alternatives to why something happened. If you think someone you know is in denial about living with alcohol use disorder, there are ways you can help them. People with alcohol use disorder may experience denial, which can delay treatment.

Asking for help or admitting to struggling with a problem is hard for many people, not just those who struggle with their use of alcohol. Admitting a problem means facing difficult truths and doing hard work to overcome the issue, which is challenging. Sufferers of alcohol use disorder commonly tell themselves they can quit any time, or that their drinking is under control and not that serious. And denial doesn’t only come from people who struggle with drinking; their family and friends are sometimes in denial too.