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Patterns of Denial

Denial – A Stumbling Block in Addiction

Denial results from the natural tendency to avoid the pain caused by recognizing the presence, severity, and responsibility for dealing with serious problems. When denial is activated, clients start using a set of automatic and unconscious thoughts, feelings, urges, actions, and social reactions that defend against the pain of recognizing the problem.

Levels of Denial

As discussed there can be many reasons and situations that trigger the craving to use or drink. Some of the situations that can act as a catalyst to stimulate the urge are –

  • Lack of Information – Denials lack accurate information or have internalized wrong information about addiction and its related problems.
  • Conscious Defensiveness – Knowledge that something is wrong but refuse to face the pain of knowing. Whenever they start thinking or talking about their alcohol or drug use, an internal argument erupts in their mind. The argument is between the addictive self that wants to keep drinking and drugging and the sober self that wants to stop.
  • Unconscious Defensiveness – Automatic and unconscious evasion and distortion of information in a way that guards them against the pain of knowing they are addicted.
  • Delusion – Deeply entrenched mistaken beliefs held in spite of overwhelming evidence that they are not true. Denial is delusional. They maintain the belief that they are social drinkers and recreational drug users despite overwhelming and undeniable evidence of serious problems. Because they are delusional, they usually do not respond to denial management methods. The delusions are often linked to brain dysfunction caused by the effects of drug or alcohol use, or to coexisting mental or personality disorders.

As these conditions are treated and begin to remit, these clients usually drop into lower levels of denial that can be managed in counseling.



The Big Denial Patterns Are:

1. Avoidance (“I’ll talk about anything but the problem!”) – Addicts avoid being cornered about their behavior, their activities, and their feelings. Diversion is when the addict shifts attention from self onto the misbehavior of others. By shifting the focus of attention, the addict is temporarily “safe.” Making someone feel guilty is one of the most common diversion tactics.

2. Absolute Denial (“No, not me!”) – This situation occurs when the user, abuser, addict refuses to see the truth even though that truth is plain to everyone else. This denial is not the same as straight out lying, because the individual actually believes s/he is correct and that everyone else is mixed up.

3. Minimizing (“It’s Not That Bad!”) – Minimizing is a form of denying a problem in that the individual will admit to a problem, but discounts its seriousness. E.g. :“I drink, but I don’t do drugs.” Or “I use drugs, but I get up and go to work every day, so I don’t have problem.”

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4. Rationalizing (“I Have a Good Reason!”) – Rationalizing and Justifying is simply making excuses to avoid taking responsibility for self. E.g.:” I worked hard all week and deserve to party on Friday.” They owed me money and wouldn’t pay, so I had the right to take his tools in payment.”

5. Blaming (“It’s Not My Fault!”) – Blaming other people for individual problems is almost a societal epidemic, and the addict is an expert. No matter the situation or what has happened, it is always someone else’s fault. By blaming others, the addict avoids all personal responsibility and feels justified in behaving however s/he chooses.

6. Intellectualization – Intelligent people use their “smarts” to avoid taking responsibility for themselves and the decisions that they make. They spend a lot of time analyzing themselves, other people, and the world around them. They use this “thinking about the problem” as a way of “looking for solutions,” while not actually taking any true personal responsibility or steps toward change.

The Small Seven Denial Patterns Are:

  • Comparing (“Because others are worse than me, I don’t have a problem”);
  • Manipulating (“I’ll only recover if you do what I want!”);
  • Scaring Myself into Recovery (“Being afraid of the consequences of drinking and drugging will keep me sober!”);
  • Compliance (“I’ll say anything you want to hear if you leave me alone!”);
  • Flight into Health (“Feeling better means that I am better!”);
  • Strategic Hopelessness (“Since nothing will work, I don’t have to try!”);
  • The Democratic Disease State (“I have the right to drink and drug myself to death!”).
Destination Treatment

Thus addiction is a baffling, cunning and manipulative illness. It is a relapse prone progressive disease which if left untreated will result in insanity or death of the individual.

To sum it up, denial is central to the explanation of why addicts persist in using despite evidence of harmful ramifications. Acquiring causal knowledge of the negative consequences of drug usage is considered as an important step in recovery. The addicts tend to use denial to refrain from pain; the users need to be developing skills to cope with pain effectively.

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