Experts who study addiction know that denial is a common aspect of addictive psychology. Denial is the inability or unwillingness to admit a truth or a reality. It is a defense mechanism that people use to protect themselves and avoid unpleasant changes.
However, denial also keeps people addicted. It keeps them from committing to addiction treatment they need, and it can inhibit their ability to make the necessary changes that their therapy requires in order to become substance-free. Overcoming this denial is a critical part of the treatment process.
Degree of Self-Awareness
Not all people who abuse substances are in denial of their problem. A range of levels of awareness can exist in those who face addiction.1 Some people are fully aware of the chaos that substance abuse has produced in their lives. Other people become gradually aware of the severity of their problem, often through the reactions of other people in their lives.
However, some percentage of individuals will misperceive how profoundly their substance use has impacted their life and the lives of the people around them. They may not attribute the problems they experience to substance use. They may identify themselves as highly competent, in control or as part of an elevated social class that could not possibly suffer from addiction.
Being Enabled By Loved Ones
Another problem that can prevent someone from committing to addiction treatment and experiencing successful recovery is the denial of the situation by others close to them. Spouses, parents or close friends may feel the substance abuse problem is “not that bad.” They may have developed a set of responses to the addiction that are designed to prevent the addicted loved one from experiencing negative consequences from their substance use. Family members may engage in behaviors that hide the situation from the outside world or downplay its impact.
But this often well-meaning support system only serves to make the problem worse and prevents the individuals from facing the truth about the damage their substance abuse continues to do in their lives. Professional therapy can often help family members to understand the role they play in helping the individual to stay addicted. Treatment can help to reveal the severity of the substance abuse and why changing their own behavior can help the addicted individual succeed in treatment and long-term recovery.
An Intervention Can Help Someone in Committing to Addiction Treatment
In some cases, an intervention counselor can help both the person suffering from addiction and their family members to deal with the reality of addiction and succeed in convincing them that committing to addiction treatment is the right choice.2
Once someone commits to treatment and begins therapy, individual and group counseling sessions can help them to see the effects of substance abuse on their lives more clearly. The idea that they have been in control of their substance use begins to erode, and they can begin to accept the help that will ultimately allow them to manage their addiction and rebuild their lives in sobriety.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and needs help overcoming denial, contact a professional treatment center that can provide the therapies and life skills needed to succeed in recovery.