How Denial Impacts Addiction

How denial impacts addictionBefore an addict reaches acceptance, they may react in denial when confronted about their substance abuse. When someone reacts in denial, they are using a defense mechanism to help them cope with the reality of a situation. In the case of addiction, an addict may be fiercely certain that their habit is manageable, and they respond incredulously to anyone who calls out their behavior. They defy the facts of their dependence on drugs and alcohol and dismiss any opinions that contradict their own sense of control.

Denial isn’t just lying to others; it’s also lying to oneself. Reaching someone who is living in denial can feel discouraging and intimidating, especially when bringing up the subject always spirals into fighting. But understanding the psychology behind denial can help add perspective to those conversations. The following discussion highlights the ways and reasons why addicts live in denial before taking responsibility for their addiction.

Lying to others

Denial can be defined as refusing to admit truth or reality, typically to protect one’s ego. When someone is acting in denial toward others about their substance abuse, they may use a variety of tactics to downplay their habit. Examples include minimizing, rationalizing, forgetting, self-deception, and repression. All of these approaches are used to fight off a potential threat or uncomfortable thoughts, keeping them from acknowledging reality.

When an addict in denial responds to confrontation, they typically lean on justifications for their behavior to combat any accusations. When someone approaches them about their habit, they might respond as if they feel attacked, quickly dismissing the notion that their behavior is out of their control. These are the types of justifications they might give:

  • Certain tragedies or events have made them drink more or use more.
  • They only use drugs or alcohol to calm down or de-stress.
  • They feel like their family is judging them.
  • They aren’t hurting anyone else.

Ultimately, the addict uses denial to continue their behavior without correction.

Lying to themselves

When someone refuses to believe their substance abuse is a problem, their denial isn’t just outward. The addict is also lying to themselves as a pretense, claiming they are in control of their habit. If their world hasn’t completely fallen apart, they may identify control of their habit with their ability to maintain a steady job or keep a normal routine. The lies they tell others may reflect how they honestly see themselves. Their perception of reality has been distorted to cater to their personal biases.

Addicts often become masters at convincing themselves that no problem exists. Instead, they point the blame at everybody else, convinced that other people are blowing the issue out of proportion or doing things that drove the habit in the first place.

These are the types of lies an addict will convince themselves:

  • I could quit whenever I want.
  • It’s not other people’s business.
  • Getting help shows weakness.

Approaching someone in denial

Do you know someone who is living in denial? Those conversations can be hugely challenging. Take a look at tips we’ve put together on how to approach someone about addiction.