Author: John Carter

Alcoholic Denial How To Help An Alcoholic In Denial

alcoholism and denial

They might not be ready to accept help just yet, but you’re at least planting a seed and showing that there is a way forward. In this post, we’ll discuss how and why denial happens, its role in addiction, common signs, and how to help someone who may be in denial. You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline.

alcoholism and denial

Coming to the rescue of a loved one who struggles with alcohol dependence may seem like the right thing to do, but it essentially allows them to never experience the negative consequences of their drinking. Understanding denial is a first step toward helping your loved one with alcohol use disorder. When you realize denial is a coping mechanism, you may feel less frustrated with the behaviors you’ve seen. Research shows that people with alcohol use disorder often downplay the severity of their drinking.2 Due to shame, it is common for someone with AUD to not be fully forthcoming in sharing the impact alcohol has had in their life.

Optimally, the impact of specific criteria should be evaluated while also considering the relationship of denial to drinking quantities, the number of alcohol problems, and whether an individual has alcohol abuse or dependence in DSM-IV. These concepts are complex and likely to develop in response to widely held societal beliefs as well as mechanisms reflecting an individual’s traits regarding how they handle problems and their specific beliefs and behaviors. The denial or minimization of substance related problems interferes with decisions to seek help, impedes behavior changes, and contributes to relapses into problematic behaviors (Ferrari et al., 2008; Wing, 1996; Sher and Epler, 2004). Protecting, rescuing, and secondary denial are all ways that people close to alcoholics enable their addictive behaviors.

Ready to make a change?

Not everyone with AUD demonstrates denial, but it’s a common occurrence that can prevent people from seeking treatment. In most cases, someone who relies on alcohol and drugs will continue to be in denial about their addiction until their problems become impossible to ignore. This could happen in the form of an overdose or other major health event, legal trouble, or relationship strain or loss.

alcoholism and denial

Denial of an overarching alcohol problem despite endorsement of specific alcohol-related difficulties may be central to development and continuation of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). However, there is limited information about which characteristics of drinkers and which drinking problems relate most closely to that denial. Alcohol addiction treatment centers offer a number of treatment options, and guide an individual through the recovery process. From the early stages of detoxification, or detox, to inpatient treatment, through to aftercare, addiction medicine continues to develop and support individuals in recovery.

Addiction: What Is Denial?

Starting treatment needs to be a choice, and the person with AUD needs to be ready to make it. If someone you trust has suggested you are, take time to step back and examine the situation from afar. Try to think objectively about the little and big ways alcohol or drugs play a role in your life.

  1. The current analyses focus on inaccurate denial of current AUDs in individuals who report themselves as light or moderate social drinkers.
  2. Many people with alcohol addiction lie to hide their drinking habits or the severity of their addiction.
  3. Be aware of the common forms of denial, and consider whether they are familiar to you.
  4. If you think someone you know is in denial about living with alcohol use disorder, there are ways you can help them.

To prepare for the study we searched the literature for specific characteristics of individuals who evidence denial. Marital status and education level did not consistently relate to the probability of denial (Ortega and Alegria, 2005; Rinn et al, 2002), although one study suggested more denial among lower educated individuals (Fendrich and Vaughn, 1994). Even more inconsistent results were seen for the relationship to denial for sex, age, socioeconomic status or income (Clark et al., 2016; Fendrich and Vaughn, 1994; Ortega and Alegria, 2005; Rinn et al., 2002; Rosay et al., 2007). Another interesting finding related to the overall differences across generations regarding the specific criteria items endorsed by AUD probands and AUD offspring in the first data columns of Tables 1 and ​and3.3. One striking finding involved the 4% of AUD probands overall who admitted to tolerance in the prior five years compared to 57% who endorsed tolerance in AUD offspring. A cursory review of tolerance reports over the years in SDPS AUD probands indicated that this variable had been endorsed by AUD probands at age 35 at a rate similar to the current AUD offspring.

As the behavior continues, a person may begin to reckon with the idea that there may be a problem (contemplation). The questions were extracted from the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA) (validity, retest reliabilities, and cross-interviewer reliabilities of .7 to .8) (Bucholz et al.,1994; Hesselbrock et al.,1999). We do not receive any compensation or commission for referrals to other treatment facilities. Eventually, the need or compulsion to drink is beyond their control. Not wanting to admit their alcoholism to anyone does not mean they don’t see the problem. Whether it happens over time or immediately, the person realizes that their drinking has become a bit out of control.

While addiction denial may seem like a method of protecting yourself from hard truths about your behavior, continued denial can be harmful. If you’re struggling with addiction or addiction denial, reflecting on your behavior and approaching yourself with honesty and compassion can help you begin the process of recovery. Depression can fuel addiction denial by causing low emotions, unhelpful thoughts, avoidance, or escape mechanisms. These can perpetuate feelings of denial by prohibiting someone from examining their addictive behavior and addressing the issue head-on. To find a treatment program, browse the top-rated addiction treatment facilities in each state by visiting our homepage, or by viewing the SAMHSA Treatment Services Locator. The helpline at is available 24/7 to discuss the treatment needs of yourself or a loved one.

Higher average drinks needed for effects indicates lower response per drink and higher future risk for alcohol problems (Daeppan et al., 2000; Ray et al., 2010; Schuckit, 2018a; Schuckit et al., 2019 a, b). As probands’ biological children reached age 18, they were personally interviewed every five-years using SSAGA-based questions. The first interview following their 18th birthday included the impulsivity and sensation seeking questionnaires, and, for those with experience with drinking, the SRE. Much of the literature on denial has focused on underlying mechanisms that contribute to false negative reports regarding SUDs.

Blame Is an Outcome of Denial

Or they may point the finger at a friend or co-worker for buying them a beer in the past. It is important to recognize that just because you have realized that your loved one may be in need of an alcohol addiction treatment program, that does not mean they will agree. Individuals with alcohol problems go to great lengths to avoid change. As a result, they lie about their drinking or blame others for their problems. However, these behaviors can fracture their relationships, threaten their employment and exacerbate their addiction.

In some instances, their denial causes them to fail to recognize how their substance abuse is affecting their lives. Many people with the disorder lie and blame others for their actions. But knowing the behavioral consequences of alcohol addiction can help people understand the disease and help loved ones seek treatment. Addiction is a brain disease characterized by compulsive behaviors that continue despite harmful or negative consequences.

Many people with alcohol addiction lie to hide their drinking habits or the severity of their addiction. They may say they worked late when they really spent time at a bar. Or they may say they’ve only had one beer when they’ve actually had many more. These individuals may become offended or enraged if someone suggests they may have a drinking problem. Denial is a defense mechanism for people suffering from addiction, and it is one factor that can keep them from seeking life-saving treatment. Half reported a biological father with DSM-III alcoholism and half had no known alcoholic relative (American Psychiatric Association, 1980; Schuckit and Gold, 1988).