What To Do When A Loved One With An Addiction Is In Denial

addiction denial

Living with an addiction is very difficult for the person directly impacted as well as the people he or she lives with. This problem is only further exacerbated if the individual is in a state of denial and is not willing to take any steps to improve his or her situation. How can you assist a loved one who is in denial about his or her addiction issues? Keep on reading to find out.

For some people, denial is relatively easy to overcome. There may be some tragic occurrence that brings them back to their senses, or they may simply grow weary of their current lifestyle and look for a way out. For others, denial is a mental state where they feel very comfortable. For such people, the denial itself is a challenge that first needs to be tackled in order to move into the recovery phase. Here are some steps to take when denial features as an obstacle.

Start Positive Discussions

Breaking an addiction is a very difficult endeavor even for people who recognize that there is a problem and are willing to put in the effort to overcome it. For individuals in denial, overcoming the denial is a challenge in itself. As such, you will need to put in additional effort to convince them of the need to change their lifestyle. Starting a good conversation is one of the best ways to get access to the thought process of these individuals.

Though it may sound counterproductive, the aim of your first conversation should not be to convince them get help or make a major life change. Instead, focus on shedding light on the current condition of their life. Talking about how things are going for them and trying to understand how they feel about their life will give you insight on where you can safely take the conversation. The objective is to make them realize that they aren’t living to their full potential and that their addiction may be the very thing that is holding them back.

Identify The Type Of Denial Your Loved One Has

Though addiction comprises the majority of the problem, your loved one needs to understand that his or her state of denial is also problematic. There are a few types of addiction denial and it’s important that you do your research to understand them in detail. In the same way that your loved one will require professional help to get over the addiction, he or she may also need to talk to a licensed therapist if he or she is stuck in denial. A few common types of denial among people with addiction are listed below:

  • Mental Filtering
  • Externalizing Responsibility
  • Control Fallacies
  • Normalizing
  • Minimization
  • Optimism Bias
  • Avoidance

Each of these forms of denial has its own implications. They may arise because of different reasons and the way they are dealt with may also vary. It is extremely helpful if you can recognize the type of denial your loved one is exhibiting as you talk with him or her. With this knowledge you can structure future discussions to help your loved one become more aware of his or her addiction.

Get Professional Help 

The biggest problem with denial, no matter what kind, is the difficulty in getting people with addiction issues to move on from it. Denial can become so ingrained into their thought process and become such a key part of their identity that you are effectively attempting to change the individuals you are trying to help. Talking to people who are stuck in denial can be extremely tricky. For example, if you suggest that they go to a doctor you are indirectly suggesting that a problem exists, and this may contradict what they think about themselves.

Some well-meaning people have found themselves in the rather precarious position of trying to convince their loved one to consider medical assistance even though their loved one doesn’t think anything is wrong. This situation can be extremely frustrating for both parties. Rather than suggesting medical intervention right away, it may be better to get your loved one to discuss the issue with other people who are considered to be neutral parties. This may include friends,  relatives, or a trusted religious leader. 

This approach will get your loved one into the habit of talking and thinking about the problem. Later on, you can bring up the topic of getting better insight into his or her life by talking to a professional. A licensed therapist is trained to assist people with addiction and denial issues. He or she can help your loved one to address the current concerns in a safe and effective way.