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Addiction Denial

addiction denial

Addiction is a chronic disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Individuals with addiction use substances that become compulsive and continue despite harmful consequences.

Individuals living with addiction may deny their behavior or ignore any signs of addiction. Here’s how to know if someone is in denial of their addiction, and when to seek help.

What Is Denial?

Denial is a defense mechanism some individuals use where they refuse to acknowledge the reality of their substance abuse or the negative consequences it’s causing.

Denial doesn’t mean they can’t see the way they’re using alcohol and drugs, instead it’s a way to ignore the problems addiction is causing, sometimes even viewing the alcohol and drugs as an escape from the problems instead of the cause.

Signs Of Addiction Denial

Addiction denial can take many forms, from being secretive, lying, rationalizing their substance use or avoiding conversations about their substance use. If a loved one is in denial, you may see signs like:

  • Continued involvement in behaviors despite disruptions to their life or serious consequences like DUIs or hospitalizations.

  • Denial of accountability and avoiding responsibility by explaining the circumstances were out of their control and avoiding responsibility for making things better.

  • Being secretive, hiding or lying about addictive behaviors. They may even be denying the facts to themselves, claiming things didn’t occur or the problem is not a real one.

  • Minimization and downplaying the extent of the problem to others in addition to the inability to be honest with themselves about their behavior. They will minimize the impact of consequences for themselves and the importance of the problem they have created.

  • Rationalizing and creating logical sounding reasons to justify the behavior.

  • Projecting and blaming others or external factors for their actions.

  • Deflection by shifting the focus away from oneself by pointing out others' shortcomings or behavior.

  • Avoidance and ignoring situations, conversations, or people that might bring attention to the issue.

  • Selective attention by focusing only on certain aspects of the situation while ignoring others that might reveal the extent of the issue.

Examples Of Addiction Denial

It is common for individuals when they are in denial of addiction to try to appear in control by explaining why their substance use differs from that of someone else. For example, a loved one may hear things like:

  • I know my limits, I don't get drunk.

  • Things could have been worse.

  • It just happened a couple of times. It’s not a big deal.

  • It was just a couple of drinks. I couldn’t be the one who was left out. It’s not a problem.

  • I’ve been under a lot of stress. I’m only using for a little while to cope.

  • I only drink a little.

  • Well, at least I don't do drugs like some of my friends.

  • I only drink to relax and unwind after a stressful day. It's not a big deal.

  • If I had a better job, I wouldn't need to drink.

  • I can stop drinking anytime I want. I just choose to drink occasionally.

  • I only drink a few beers a day. It's not like I'm drinking a whole bottle of liquor.

  • I only use drugs for fun, I'm not addicted.

  • I can function perfectly fine even when I'm using drugs.

  • My drug use isn't hurting anyone else. It's my body, and I can do what I want.

  • I only use drugs on the weekends. It's not affecting my work or relationships.

Recovery often begins with overcoming denial. The support of loved ones, interventions, therapy, and education can help. The best way to approach someone with addiction and denial is in a compassionate and non-confrontational manner, since attacking or pressuring them can sometimes reinforce their denial.

When it comes to addiction denial, recognizing and acknowledging the problem is the first step to seeking treatment and making positive changes.

Getting Help For Addiction

If you or somebody in your life seems to have an issue with alcohol or drugs, or is suffering from addiction, professional help may be the best option for recovery.

At Care Addiction Center, we offer treatment plans that address every facet of your addiction, serving individuals in Geneva, Batavia, Sycamore, St. Charles, and Kane County, with online addiction treatment available anywhere in Illinois. 

To get started on the road to recovery, or if you have questions about helping yourself or a loved one, call us today or schedule a confidential assessment online and begin treatment.


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