Denial – What You Need to Know

We often have an instinctive tendency to deny the magnitude of life’s challenges and how they affect us. Although a little bit of denial can be an effective coping mechanism, more often, denial prevents us from overcoming our problems.

This is particularly true for people struggling to control their mental health and addiction issues. Recognizing the signs of denial can be a helpful first step in getting the help you deserve.

7 Common Signs of Denial

  • Rationalizing the problem. Although rationalizations may make sense on the surface, they often mask the extent of the mental illness problem.
  • Blaming others. It’s natural to feel defensive when someone brings up your level of drinking or drug use. However, flipping the situation around to blame someone else can be a form of denial. If you find yourself saying, “Well, it’s really my partner’s fault because she’s always nagging me,” you may be using blame to divert attention from your own problems.
  • Comparing your circumstance to others’. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you are more or less than the people around you. Even if you seem “better adjusted, mental illness may be affecting your everyday life.
  • Pretending to be compliant. In some situations, it feels best to just nod your head and agree when someone expresses concern about your mental health. However, this is often a sign of denial. Making promises with no intent to follow through, pretending to look into treatment options, or continually apologizing may be signs that denial is a problem for you.
  • Suppressing thoughts or emotions about the problem. In the long run, it can be very harmful to suppress thoughts and feelings about your mental health. Consciously deciding, “I’m just not going to think about that now” is a sign that your illness may have gotten out of hand.
  • Feeling hopeless about your future mental health. Working through mental illness is challenging, and some feelings of hopelessness are normal. If you find yourself using hopelessness to get out of changing — “It’s no use, I’ll always be broken” — it may be a form of denial.
  • “My life, my problem.” People with this mentality do not believe that anyone else should express concern about their mental illness. However, this can be a way of denying the impact on your friends, family members, and other loved ones.

Denial Prevents You from Getting the Help You Need

Denying that you have a problem is a short-term comfort that results in poor long-term consequences. If you recognize some of the above thoughts and feelings, take a moment to check whether you’re being honest with yourself and others about your mental health.

Although acknowledging your problems with substance use can be scary, it ultimately can help you find an effective treatment program that will restore your good health.