Being High-Functioning: Feeding the Alcoholic Denial

why are alcoholics in denial

Denial is a form of motivated belief or self-deception that detaches an individual from reality (Bortolotti, 2010). To maintain a positive view of themselves, people revise their beliefs in the face of new evidence of good news but ignore bad news. Psychological processes such as distraction, forgetfulness, and repression, may serve as a variation of denial. It should be noted that these psychological processes may or may not be conscious processes. Completing alcohol rehab is a proven method for overcoming alcoholism.

why are alcoholics in denial

As a result, they lie about their drinking or blame others for their problems. However, these behaviors can fracture their relationships, threaten their employment and exacerbate their addiction. Many people with the disorder are reluctant to seek rehab, partly because alcohol is a central part of their life. And they know that rehab could compromise their relationship with alcohol.

What Is Denial?

Secondary denial often prevents loved ones from addressing this issue with HFAs and therefore preventing them from getting treatment. 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. When a loved one is engaged in alcohol abuse, watching them spiral out of control can cause inner conflict for friends and family members. Many may wonder how alcoholics who have lost their job, their housing and/or family could not realize that they are alcoholic.

why are alcoholics in denial

Many people with alcohol addiction lie to hide their drinking habits or the severity of their addiction. They may say they worked late when they really spent time at a bar. Or they may say they’ve only had one beer when they’ve actually had many more. It allows a person with an alcohol use disorder to dismiss all warning signs that their alcohol abuse ambien has become a problem. While addiction denial may seem like a method of protecting yourself from hard truths about your behavior, continued denial can be harmful. If you’re struggling with addiction or addiction denial, reflecting on your behavior and approaching yourself with honesty and compassion can help you begin the process of recovery.

Language of Denial

But knowing the behavioral consequences of alcohol addiction can help people understand the disease and help loved ones seek treatment. The psychodynamic perspective suggests that denial is basically a defense mechanism (McWilliams, 2011). That is, individuals with substance disorders use denial in order to prevent threatening emotions entering our conscious thought.

  1. But denial can also cause problems in your life, particularly if it keeps you from addressing a problem or making a needed change.
  2. Consider not drinking yourself (at least temporarily), says Kennedy.
  3. Starting treatment needs to be a choice, and the person with AUD needs to be ready to make it.
  4. It is important to recognize that just because you have realized that your loved one may be in need of an alcohol addiction treatment program, that does not mean they will agree.
  5. In a 2015 study, almost 29% of participants didn’t seek treatment due to stigma or shame.
  6. However, addiction can include a variety of behaviors, including other forms of substance use, gambling, and sexual fantasies, urges, and actions.

In rehab, people undergo alcohol detox, learn about the dangers of alcoholism and find new ways to avoid drinking. When a person starts abusing alcohol, they may feel they have a good reason. Stress, obligations, trauma, abuse, or any other number of negative circumstances can seem like an acceptable reason to pick up a bottle or have a drink. For those dependent on a substance, talking to a healthcare provider is the best way to develop a plan for detoxing safely. Denial can persist for short or long periods and looks different for everyone.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Programs

Secondary denial is a form of denial that doesn’t come from the alcoholic, but from the people they surround themselves with. Whether it is a ‘drinking buddy’ or a loved one, these people echo the sentiment of the person drugs brains and behavior struggling with addiction. In other cases, however, denial can be problematic and even harmful. For example, if you stay in denial about a health condition and never see a doctor about it, the problem might worsen.

Overcoming denial often depends on the nature of the problem. People often come to terms with the reality of a situation on their own given time and support. When dealing with something shocking or distressing, being in denial can give you a little time and space to gradually, often unconsciously, come to grips with the change. Finally, a person moves from denial to accepting their addiction when they recognize the issue and are mobilized to change it. That is, the future consequences are not weighed in comparison with the present benefits. The benefits of drug use may be clear and immediate, while the costs are typically delayed and uncertain.

The effects of alcoholism on families include stress, anxiety and depression. For help coping with negative emotions related to your loved one’s drinking problems, consider attending Al-Anon or another 12-step program for friends and family members of alcoholics. These support groups allow you to interact with people in similar situations.

For others, an inpatient program that can help with withdrawal and mental health concerns might be a good choice. For some, blaming others protects them from taking responsibility themselves. Approaching them may feel foreign or uncomfortable, which is why some choose to reach out to mental health or addiction specialists for guidance. There are unique professionals that conduct interventions, and those individuals can be extremely helpful in these processes.

A person may consciously or unconsciously engage in addiction denial because they are struggling to accept the reality of their behavior. Recognizing signs in yourself or loved ones can initiate the process of recovery. Help is available through various sources, including talking to a healthcare provider, mental health or substance use professional, and support groups.

If they’re not receptive, keep trying — and set boundaries to protect your own well-being. In addition to supporting your own mental health, this serves as a role model to your loved one. Sometimes, a person’s personality can influence their tendency for denial. Certain traits, such as independence and perfectionism, can add to a person’s hesitancy or reticence to seek help, says Grawert.

It’s a good idea to ask questions, let the person with AUD lead the conversation, and avoid judgment and accusations. This can help the person with AUD feel more at ease and might help them accept that they need treatment for their alcohol use. People with AUD are likely to employ denial because admitting that compare sober houses alcohol has become a serious problem can be incredibly difficult. Many people with AUD drink more than they intend to but want to believe they are still in control of their drinking. Not everyone with AUD demonstrates denial, but it’s a common occurrence that can prevent people from seeking treatment.


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