How Does Denial Affect Addiction: By Leading Rehab Experts

Updated on January 25, 2022

Overcoming denial is essential for accepting and comprehending reality, making changes, and planning for the future. 

Acceptance comes naturally to us when we are content. However, acceptance becomes much more complex when we are in pain, and we may enter a state of denial.

Addiction to addictive substances can lead to a state of denial. This refusal to accept reality may manifest as lying about addictive habits, ignoring consequences, downplaying family and friends’ concerns about your health, or rationalizing your alcohol and drug use. 

Even though most people struggle to accept the reality of their circumstances at some point in their lives, denial is a powerful state of mind that can keep them from receiving the help they require. 

Fortunately, you can overcome denial by learning to face reality squarely in the face. Infinite Recovery teaches you coping tactics to overcome denial as you go through addiction treatment and supports relapse prevention

What Is Denial?

Denial is a mental state in which you distort or deny what is happening. 

When it comes to addiction, whether it’s to alcohol or gambling, denial is a potent coping mechanism that allows you to avoid facing the truth. In addition, denial is an effective coping strategy that addiction victims use to justify their habits. 

This is a temporary state because for some, as it may last only a few weeks for some. Others may have to wait months or even years. 

As long as this condition persists, the treatment cannot begin, and even if it starts, it frequently results in relapse. However, with therapy and support, an addiction patient can begin to accept reality and take the first critical steps toward full recovery.

How Can Denial Affect Addiction?

Denial is very common, especially among those who are struggling with addictive behaviors. No one wants to admit they have a problem with alcohol, drugs, or gambling, and denial allows them to make the truth appear more favorable. 

A person in denial may engage in various behaviors such as:

1: Minimizing

If you bring up the addiction, the person may act as if you’re exaggerating or blowing things out of proportion. They might say something like, “it’s not that bad” or “people do a lot more than I do.” When they engage in denial to continue engaging in addictive behaviors, it continues harming their health. 

2: Rationalizing

Addiction victims will rationalize their addiction by claiming that they are stressed and need a little help getting through the day or earned a reward for their hard work. Unfortunately, denial can have negative consequences ranging from health issues to strained relationships. So, when they rationalize the addiction, it often leaves them alone with no support network to come back to.

3: Self-Deception

Self-deception is a powerful denial mechanism in which the individual convinces himself that things aren’t as bad or as severe as they really are.

Even though denial is a normal stress reaction, deceiving yourself can be a compelling but dangerous habit to carry on the addiction.

The longer it goes on, the later it becomes harder for you to seek help from rehabilitation technologies

4: Others

Denial prevents you from dealing with the reality of your situation. Instead of seeking treatment for substance abuse, denial encourages you to engage in addictive behaviors.

Unfortunately, that pattern of behavior can lead to strained relationships, financial difficulties, legal problems, and various health problems.

How To Overcome Denial?

Unfortunately, getting over denial is a difficult process. It was widely assumed that people suffering from addiction needed to hit rock bottom before they could begin to deal with the reality of their problems. 

This gave the individual the opportunity to accept the situation, seek help, and move forward. However, we now know that we can intervene earlier before the person reaches this point of despair.

The methods that can help end denial by emphasizing reality include:

1: Therapy

An addiction therapist can assist people in confronting their issues. This may appear unsettling at first, but talking to a therapist is a nonjudgmental way to deal with difficult situations and brutal truths. 

A therapist can assist you in opening up, recognizing your reasons for denial, and accepting the truth. A licensed therapist can also help you identify and alter the thoughts that led to your denial and addiction in the first place.

2: Journaling

Keeping a journal on addictive behaviors, such as how many drinks you have each day or how much money you spend at the casino, can provide absolute proof of the extent of the problem. Self-awareness is the first step toward overcoming denial. 

You may be unaware of how much or how frequently you use drugs or alcohol. This journal can assist you in accepting that reality. You are not required to make the entries lengthy or complicated. Instead, simply record the dates, times, amount, and substance consumed.

3: Education

Many people are unaware that they have an addiction, but by reading educational materials on specific addictions, they may recognize specific behaviors in themselves.

Denial occurs for a reason, and educating yourself on addiction can help you find out why you refuse to accept reality.  Denial can be caused by rejection, fear, criticism, shame, disappointment, guilt, and judgment.

Understanding your reasons for denial can help you deal with them, and educating yourself on addiction is the only way to do that. 

Importance Of Overcoming Denial In Addiction Recovery

When you live in denial, you don’t give yourself the chance to develop self-efficacy or confidence in your ability to succeed. 

A strong sense of self-efficacy can assist you in viewing complex problems as tasks to be completed, overcoming setbacks and disappointments, and developing a stronger sense of commitment. 

Denial limits your power by leading you to believe that difficult situations are beyond your ability, causing you to avoid the challenging but rewarding task of recovery.

When we avoid reality, we allow problems to grow. 

According to research, denying the reality of a situation increases stress and the likelihood of having a heart attack. 

Living in denial can also result in physical illness, mental health issues, and relationship issues. In addition, denial can lead to financial ruin, divorce, unemployment, homelessness, poor mental health, a criminal record, and chronic illness resulting from addiction.

The Bottom Line

When people live in denial, they often overlook the negative consequences of addiction, such as the depletion of a bank account, ending a relationship, or losing a job. 

Coming face to face with reality can aid in the healing of past wounds, the reframing of negative thoughts, the modification of harmful behavior patterns, and the overcoming of addiction.

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