Addiction Denial: How to Recognize It and Help a Person in Need

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Invariably, the last person to accept that they have an addiction problem is the person who needs help the most. The task of helping an unwilling addict is something most of us will willingly take on if it means getting the help and support needed to put a loved one back on the right path.

One of the best ways of confronting someone who is in addiction denial is to understand what they are going through and appreciate the psychological and physical barriers they need to break down to break the cycle and start their recovery.

Here is a look at some of the key personality traits and symptoms to help you recognize when someone you care about has an addiction problem and how they can face up to the truth of their precarious position.

What is addiction denial?

The best way of describing what is going on when someone is in denial is that the process involves triggering a psychological defense mechanism. The result of this action is that it prevents the person from admitting they have a problem. 

There is a clear distinction between simply refusing to accept that they have a problem and the complex emotional process preventing them from being able to admit the truth and the severity of their situation.

Addiction denial operates on both a conscious and unconscious level. This leads a person to choose to ignore the consequences of their addiction on a conscious level. At the same time, their subconscious is working against them as their brain triggers a defense mechanism that dulls the emotional distress they are actually experiencing.

A typical example of this in action would be when a person deliberately suppresses their memories of substance use. This is a classic denial scenario.

Recognizing the key stages of addiction denial

There are four notable stages of addiction denial. The first of these is a state of unawareness. This is when the person doesn’t recognize or consider their addictive behavior to be a problem.

The second stage of addiction denial is all about resistance. This is the point when the person refuses to accept that they have a problem even when confronted with irrefutable evidence about their addiction.

The next stage is when the person finally accepts that they may have an addiction problem but they are still resistant to change or offers of help as they are still in a state of denial. 

The final stage is the point of acceptance. This is when the person concedes they have a problem with addiction. Someone hits a tipping point in the cycle when their overwhelming need for help trumps their level of denial.

Helping someone to address their addiction problem

Recognizing the vital signs is part of the process. The other key part of the equation is helping an addict who is in denial and getting them the professional help needed.

You need to pick the right moment to confront them in a supportive way, without being judgmental. Encourage them to seek professional help once the dialogue has been opened and the fog of denial begins to show signs of clearing.

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I'm Alice and I live with a dizzying assortment of invisible disabilities, including ADHD and fibromyalgia. I write to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental and chronic illnesses of all kinds. 

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