Dealing with Denial

A key focus of an addiction treatment program is to introduce particpants to the concept of denial. Denial is a core component of the disease of addiction. The development of a denial system is a cardinal and integrate feature of the addictive dependency.

It is one of the major symptoms of the disease of addiction and develops along with more visible symptoms and harmful consequences. To a greater or lesser extent, it can be found in all dependent people. Denial can be the fatal aspect of addictive dependencies. It impairs the judgment of affected people and results in self-delusion which keeps them locked into an increasingly destructive pattern.

It is the denial system which, for example, permits a chemically dependent person to ignore a physician’s advice to “stop or you will die”.
Denial is progressive. The denial system becomes increasingly more pervasive and entrenched as the illness of addictive progresses. In the very early stages it is minimal, and with encouragement, such people can usually view their problem fairly realistically.

However, by the time a person’s illness is sufficiently advanced and the problem appears serious in the eyes of others, an elaborate system of defenses shields him/her from seeing what is really happening. When a person passes from the middle to the late stage of chemical dependency, the denial system is usually massive and extremely difficult to penetrate. A terminal stage alcoholic, for example, may be dying from cirrhosis yet deny any history of drinking.