How Does Alcoholism Denial Affect Recovery?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : December 01, 
| 4 Sources

Alcoholic denial is a powerful and puzzling symptom of alcohol dependence

Alcoholism denial is one of the more baffling characteristics, not just of alcohol dependency but all addictions. In alcoholic denial, the alcoholic will continually state that they do not have a problem with drinking in spite of displaying many or all of the symptoms of an alcoholic. like impaired control over alcohol consumption or preoccupation with drinking.

Everybody around the alcohol dependent knows they have a problem and yet the person will still deny they have an issue with drinking.

He (or she) will use such excuses as....

  • It is everybody else's fault. The blame game.
  • The only reason he or she drinks is because of the constant nagging from people about his drinking.
  • He or she could stop drinking any time.
  • His or her drinking effects nobody except himself. He is more than happy to live with these effects.
  • Any trouble that he or she gets into is not because of drinking although it is obvious to everyone else that it is.
Sometimes the denial is unbelievable. Thus, denial in alcoholics is usually a hindrance to effective alcohol use disorder diagnosis, referral, and treatment. Although accepting the idea that the alcoholic needs help may not be easy, keep in mind that the sooner he or she gets help, the better are his or her chances for an effective recovery.


Alcoholism Denial

Why does the alcoholic deny he has a problem?

Whenever your mind finds information threatening then it will try and ignore that information. It does this to protect itself.

It is a common part of the grieving process. When someone close to you dies then initially most people deny it. People continue to do this even when they have seen the body and been to the funeral.

The reason... life without that person is too painful to contemplate.

The solution...deny that person is dead.

And so it is with alcoholic denial.

Life without drink is too scary to deal with. Deep down most alcoholics know they need treatment for alcoholism. But they deny they have a problem because they cannot imagine a life without alcohol.

Their body is dependent on alcohol, life without drink is a threat. Therefore the alcoholic justifies their behavior, minimizes their drinking and blames everything but the drink for their predicament.

And so the most rational people adopt the most illogical responses to their problem. They have their 'heads in the sand'.

It is often the drinker himself or herself who is the last person to realize that he or she is an alcoholic.

It often takes a major crisis e.g.........

.........for the individual to realize they are addicted.

These are big crises and it would be far better for the alcoholic to get help for their drinking before they do major damage, and sometimes irreparable damage, to themselves, their lives or to the people they care about.

Alcoholism denial can also be fueled by the enabling behavior of those around the alcoholic. By not allowing the alcoholic to face the consequences for their actions…by giving them the pillow every time they fall or stumble…we are actually enabling their alcoholism.

If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:

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Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


University of Pennsylvania Health System. Enabling Behaviors.

Sage Journal. Working through Denial in Alcoholism. March 1, 1990.

Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. ALCOHOLISM: GETTING THE FACTS.

UNC School of Medicine Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.

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