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Addiction is a brain disease characterized by compulsive behaviors that continue despite harmful or negative consequences. Usually, people envision drug or alcohol use when they think about addiction. However, addiction can include a variety of behaviors, including substance use, gambling, and sexual fantasies, urges, and actions.
People living with addictions may deny their behavior. This article explores the signs of addiction denial and when to seek help.
What Is Denial?
Denial is a defense mechanism. It is a means of coping with anxiety-provoking or distressing thoughts or emotions. When it's difficult to accept information about oneself or the world, denial can serve as a way to distort or downplay the truth, keeping a person from facing reality.
Denial can persist for short or long periods and looks different for everyone. However, as addictive behaviors become more disruptive to a person’s life, it can be harder to deceive oneself and others and ignore what is happening.
Stages of Denial
There are several theories on denial, but one of the ways healthcare providers view it is through the stages of change model. These include:
- Relapse prevention
In the pre-contemplation stage, someone may not view themselves as having an addiction or be willing to evaluate their actions (denial). As the behavior continues, a person may begin to reckon with the idea that there may be a problem (contemplation).
Finally, a person moves from denial to accepting their addiction when they recognize the issue and are mobilized to change it.