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What is denial and how do I recognize it?

George Joseph
Addiction Medicine
Denial is the inability to believe in the existence or reality of something. In addiction, denying there is a problem is very dangerous, causing the addicted person or others to rationalize, underestimate, and minimize use. The addicted person always feels they have their use in control and isn’t always able to see the negative consequences in their life due to the drug and/or alcohol use.

This defense mechanism kicks in automatically in order to appear “normal” and attempt to function in society. Denial is easier and safer than admitting that there is a problem and you do not have control over your use. Denial is expensive. Denial is damaging and destructive to one’s life. With denial comes grief, shame and guilt due to loss of loved ones, job loss, financial hardships, health problems, and possibly, bouts of depression or anxiety.
Deepak Chopra
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Denial is looking past the problem instead of facing it. Psychologists consider denial the most childish of the three behaviors because it is so intimately linked to vulnerability. The person in denial feels helpless to solve problems, the way a young child feels. Fear is linked to denial, and so is a childlike need for love in the face of insecurity.

The underlying idea is "I don't have to notice what I can't change in the first place." You can catch yourself going into denial when you experience lack of focus, forgetfulness, procrastination, refusing to confront those who hurt you, wishful thinking, false hope, and confusion. The main external sign is that others don't depend on you or turn to you when a solution is needed. By pulling your attention out of focus, denial defends with blindness. How can you be accused of failing at something you don't even see? You get past denial by facing up to painful truths. Honestly expressing how you feel is the first step. For someone in deep denial, any feeling that makes you think you are unsafe is generally one you have to face.

Denial begins to end when you feel focused, alert, and ready to participate despite your fears.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.