Why Are People Often in Denial About Their Addiction?


denial about addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction recovery is a lifelong journey that begins with the recognition that there is a problem. Getting the help you require to overcome substance abuse or addiction often starts with the realization that you have lost control over your substance use.

Sometimes, the consequences of a person’s addiction are so severe and life-altering that it’s hard to imagine that the person can’t recognize they need help. It may seem that the addicted person simply doesn’t see that their substance abuse has become a problem.

Addiction denial occurs when someone cannot recognize their addiction’s destructive consequences. This guide will explore addiction denial, why it happens, and how to break through it.

Reach out to the team at Moving Mountains Recovery to learn more about our holistic, empowering addiction treatment programs or to connect to support at any stage of your recovery journey.

What is Addiction Denial?

To understand how addiction and denial are sometimes connected, it’s important to explore denial. According to the American Psychological Association, denial is a defense mechanism that allows people to ignore feelings and thoughts that might be upsetting or negative.  When someone is in denial, they may seem to experience a total lack of awareness of a problem.

Denial is not something a person chooses. Instead, complex psychological processes keep people from acknowledging a situation, threat, or experience that may cause intense anxiety, fear, or distress. Addiction denial occurs when an addicted person can’t recognize the severity of their substance use. They may display symptoms that prevent them from seeing their dire situation clearly.

Symptoms of Addiction Denial

Many people feel ambivalent or uncertain about recovery. Admitting you need help, going through treatment, and working to stay sober for the rest of your life is a significant commitment of time, resources, and energy. It takes dedication, patience, and a lot of support.

Addiction denial is different than simply feeling uncertain about being in recovery. Instead of acknowledging you have a problem and being hesitant about committing to making serious life changes, addiction denial prevents people from even recognizing that their substance use is a problem.

Here are some of the symptoms of addiction denial.

Downplaying the problem

People living in denial will minimize their drug or alcohol use and the consequences of it. If someone expresses concern about their substance use, they may become defensive, irritated, or say they’re being “dramatic.” They may say, “I only use it to sleep/focus at work/treat my back pain,” or “I’m not as bad as other people.”

Blaming outside forces

People in addiction denial may accuse people or situations of their substance use. They may accuse others of causing so much stress that they must use drugs or alcohol to cope or shift the blame to their work or home life.

Trying to maintain control

The addicted person may do and say things to create the illusion that they are in control of their drug and alcohol use–even when it’s clear that they are not. They may say things like, “I never drink/use more than I can handle,” or “I’m having fun, but I could stop whenever I want to.”

Why Do People Develop Addiction Denial?

While addiction denial may protect people from recognizing the problems related to their substance use, it can also prevent them from getting the help they need. So, why do people develop addiction denial?

Denial is a defense mechanism that can protect people from the overwhelming truth of a situation. Drug and alcohol addictions can cause devastating harm to a person’s mental and physical health, relationships, and overall well-being. People may lose jobs and face strained relationships with partners, children, family members, and more. Some become isolated, depressed, and hopeless as their addiction becomes the center of their lives. Addiction denial can prevent people from truly absorbing the difficulties in their lives.

Some of the other reasons people develop addiction denial may include:

  • Believing they have control over their substance use and can stop at any time they choose
  • Feeling too much shame and guilt about their substance use to ask for help
  • Using substances to mask the emotional pain from trauma or other issues
  • Having people around them who enable their drug abuse
  • Believing they are different or superior to others living with drug and alcohol addiction

People with drug and alcohol addiction sometimes recognize that recovery is difficult and that many aspects of their lives would have to change to maintain sobriety. For some, addiction denial is a coping mechanism that keeps them trapped in a cycle of addiction and prevents them from facing the fear of the unknown.

Get Help Now

It can be hard to break through addiction denial, but the specialists at Moving Mountains Recovery can help. Our holistic treatment programs are tailored to meet each person’s needs and can help you leave substance abuse in the past.

If you or someone you love needs treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, contact our admissions counselors today to explore our programs and find the support you need to begin your recovery journey.

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