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Denial of Alcoholism: Signs, Causes, and How to Overcome It

Denial of Alcoholism: Signs, Causes, and How to Overcome It

Denial of alcoholism can make you unaware of your condition, exposing you to serious side effects of alcohol intake.

Alcoholism Overview

Alcoholism is the chronic habit of drinking alcohol, causing significant mental and physical health issues. Alcoholism endangers more than a million lives per year. It can result in serious and dangerous effects on vital organs of the body, such as heart attack, impaired insight, short-term memory loss, liver cirrhosis, and brain atrophy. Unfortunately, denial is a cardinal symptom of alcohol use disorder. 

Confidant Health provides Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder to provide professional help and guidance to get rid of alcoholism. In MAT therapy, healthcare professionals use medications and psychological techniques to overcome substance use disorders.

Denial and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a physical and psychological condition that can negatively affect the body and human behaviors. Family history, environment, genetic factors, mental status, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are some significant factors that can put you at increased risk for alcoholism.

Addiction can be cured  or managed when a person is willing to leave it or at least aware of its adversity. But unfortunately, one of the main signs of alcohol addiction is denial. It not only keeps you away from seeking treatment but also keeps you unaware of your condition. That’s why healthcare professionals usually find it challenging to discuss the treatment with people who are in denial of their alcohol misuse.  Basically, denial is a defense mechanism in which a person has impaired insight into the destructive nature of alcohol misuse.

Signs of denial in Alcohol Use Disorder


Alcohol addicted persons try to give self-deceptive justification for their behavior, even if it's unacceptable. For example: “I only drank because he needed company.”


Projection refers to the behavior when someone falsely holds another person accountable for one's drinking challenges. For Example, “I only drank because of my divorce.”


Someone with an alcohol use disorder  tries to defend their behavior, usually to avoid criticism. This behavior is known as defensiveness. For instance, “ I didn’t go to the bar to drink.”


In comparison, people misusing alcohol  usually justify alcohol dependence as conventional by comparing it with other people who are struggling with alcohol dependence. For example, “He is older than me and more addicted. If he’s doing fine, I won’t have any problems either.”


Not admitting to alcohol addiction  as an adverse problem is called repudiation. For example, “I know more about alcohol than you. Stop grumbling.”


People dependent on alcohol  may  avoid people or situations where they think they may get judged for their addiction. For instance, “I don’t want her to be my friend anymore because she makes me feel awkward.”

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Stages of denial

Denial of alcohol addiction is sometimes so strong that it needs a straightforward confrontation or behavioral therapy to make them self-aware of their condition. Based on the severity, denial in alcohol misuse  can be classified into the following stages,

Stage 1- When a person is not mentally ready to accept reality.

Stage 2- When a person doesn’t acknowledge that they have a problem.

Stage 3- When a person conceals their  addiction voluntarily due to a feeling of remorse.

Reasons for denial 

Although denial is a prevalent symptom associated with alcohol use disorder (AUD), there is a possibility that we don’t even realize that people around us are in denial. Some of the main reasons for denial of alcohol misuse include:

Social Reasons

The leading cause of denial of alcohol addiction is social stigma caused when a person dependent on alcohol is labeled as morally and mentally inferior. This keeps the person struggling  afraid of talking openly about their  condition to friends or family.

Cognitive Decline

Brain damage from alcohol misuse causes cognitive impairment resulting in a lack of insight. Lack of insight is one of the main reasons for denial.

Normalization of alcohol misuse by others

It is self-evident for someone to be in denial if their kinspersons also misuse alcohol  due to the normalization of this behavior. The normal behavior of family and friends can pose an increased risk for denial of alcohol misuse

Psychological traumas

A strong relationship exists between alcohol use and psychological traumas. Therefore, people who start drinking due to stress or trauma might not be ready to leave drinking until they are mentally prepared and free from those stressors.

How can you help a loved one in denial?

If a loved one is in a state of denial, it's not easy to pull them out of their situation. For example, someone addicted to alcohol  may think it is their  life's best time. So, one will need determination, strong willpower, and community resources to help them. 

Some of the ways to help them are:

Don’t cover for them

Don’t support them in covering their drinking habit. Otherwise, they’ll keep themselves in denial.

Be empathetic

Support their mental health and try to talk about the reason behind their Alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Let them feel comfortable:

Try to talk and have a good time with them instead of making them feel guilty. This behavior can let them speak and open up to you about their condition. Tell them that you know it's hard for them.

Professional help

Try to provide solutions and offer professional help. Tell them different ways of treating their illness. Confidant Health is an online platform where you can find professional help to overcome alcohol use disorder  through psychological therapies and medications.

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What are the behavior patterns of someone addicted to alcohol?

Common behavior patterns  include the following.

How can you live with an alcohol dependent person?

Living with a husband, parent, or any loved one in denial of their alcohol misuse can be challenging because it is quite hard to persuade them toward recovery. Some of the tips to cope with such a situation include,

  • Prioritize yourself.
  • Make sure that you are taking care of your physical and mental well-being.
  • Do something productive daily to have a life of your own.
  • Talk to friends or family if you ever feel demotivated or overwhelmed.
  • Treat the denial with love and care, as they may be  unstable.
  • Know your limits and the extent of help you offer.

Are people addicted to alcohol  aware of their condition?

Alcohol use disorder is not something that occurs overnight. Many people  reach a point of addiction in months or years. Some of them recognize they have a disorder and seek help. However, a significant number of substance misusers  usually present with initial denial. In denial, they are not ready to accept reality and put themselves in a self-deceptive state. Alcohol consumption also compromises their intuition due to the damage it causes to the brain. This causes many to overlook problem drinking behavior  leading to Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

Consult online with Confidant’s healthcare professionals

Confidant Health is an online platform where you can consult with licensed professionals to overcome alcohol dependence. This platform offers Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to treat alcohol misuse  through medications and behavioral therapies. You can book an appointment with a Confidant Health consultant by downloading their app.

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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