Should I Tell an Addict He’s in Denial?

Should I Tell an Addict He’s in Denial?


The term ‘denial’ refers to a a state of mind some people use to cope with reality or protect the individual from accepting the truth of what is happening. Denial is the insistence a known fact is false, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Learn more about what denial is, how to identify it is happening and what can be done about a loved one who is in denial about addiction.


Alcoholism and Denial

People who struggle with alcoholism will reject the idea a problem exists at all. Further dependence on alcohol continues to progress from lack of attention to willful blindness about the magnitude of the problem. A self defense mechanism kicks in which supports the person in willful ignorance. The problem tends to be blamed on other people or situations. The following signs may appear in a person with denial:

  • Annoyance with criticism of drinking
  • Blaming other people or situations for drinking
  • Expression of guilt about drinking
  • Inability to answer honestly any questions about drinking
  • Inability to answer honestly any questions about frequency of drinking
  • Rejection that more than five drinks (men) or four drinks (women) in a day is too much


Denial in Society

Recognition and acceptance of a problem with alcohol is the first step toward recovery. Denial is fairly common, even when symptoms of withdrawal occur. The defense mechanism ultimately leaves it up to others in a social circle to recognize a problem exists and to encourage treatment. Human beings, in general, developed denial as a critical pathway to the formation and nourishment of close relationships.


When to Confront Denial

No easy way exists to determine when or how to confront a person in denial about alcoholism. Every situation is different and each person experiences unique circumstances. The decision may be made based on a few factors:

  • How much care exists for the person
  • How close the person is
  • How confident the individual is a drinking problem exists
  • Comfort with conflict
  • Communication skills

Ultimately, a loved one with a drinking problem may need a family member, friend or other trusted individual to confront the drinking problem head on. Intervention specialists help individuals plan and prepare for a formal intervention which supports a person in seeking treatment for alcoholism or drug abuse issues. This may be an option if it is difficult to get through to the person with a drinking problem about the true severity of the issue. While it may be challenging to confront the person, it is more difficult to continue watching a loved one struggle with alcoholism and eventually fall into addictive patterns which are hard to break without help. It is possible for an individual to let go of denial and recognize a problem exists which is the first step to receiving treatment.


If a loved one is struggling with denial about alcoholism, there is hope. The Villa provides support for families with loved ones addicted to alcohol. Call us to find out how we can support your loved one’s journey to recovery.