Alcoholism and Denial – How To Help Loved Ones


Key Takeaways

  • Denial in alcoholism involves lying, blaming others, and rationalizing drinking behaviors.
  • Shame, lack of information, and neurological factors contribute to alcohol denial.
  • High-functioning alcoholics often deny their addiction due to their outward success.
  • Help loved ones by learning about alcoholism, speaking openly, and seeking professional support.

It’s hard to help someone who doesn’t want your help. It’s even more challenging to help them when they deny that they have a problem.

Denial is one of the most common problems when dealing with an alcoholic.

If your loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction but won’t admit it, there are several ways to bring them around and get them to accept help.

Here’s how to spot the pattern and what you need to know to help them.

Signs An Alcoholic Might Be In Denial


Many people with alcohol use disorder lie about their drinking habits. It’s usually to avoid judgment or being scolded by their loved ones and friends.

When this happens, they might lie about how many drinks they’ve had or even where they’ve spent their time.

While lying is a classic sign of substance abuse problems, there’s one upside to it: it shows that the person is aware of their addiction.

With the right guidance and support, you might be able to convince them to get help or join alcohol addiction therapy.

Tossing Out Blame

Many alcoholics have a hard time understanding that they’re accountable for their alcohol consumption.

Some prefer to blame friends, family members, or life circumstances for their drinking problem.

For example, a person might claim they weren’t planning on drinking but had to because they met with friends at a bar.

Making Comparisons

People suffering from alcohol use disorders often compare their drinking habits to those of other alcoholics.

It’s a way of justifying their excessive drinking by comparing themselves to someone who drinks much more than they do.

However, it’s important to remember that people have unique metabolisms and therefore handle alcohol differently.

One person might pass out after a few drinks, while another gets drunk but remains conscious.

Meanwhile, both have a drinking problem and require help.


Making excuses or rationalizing behaviors is another classic sign that someone might have a drinking problem.

They usually have their own logic for explaining why they drink so much.

They might insist that alcohol is actually good for you, or as long as you don’t pass out from drinking, it’s not a problem.

This form of denial can be pretty difficult to deal with because they’re more concerned with convincing you than listening to you.

Being Dismissive

Sometimes, a loved one can be dismissive when you mention how much alcohol they drink.

They might tell you not to worry about it or that it’s not affecting their lives or daily habits while they’re just in denial.

Diversion, or changing the subject, is another thing that many alcoholics do to avoid talking about their addiction.

High-Functioning Alcoholics

High-functioning alcoholics are individuals who have an alcohol addiction problem but appear to be perfectly healthy and normal on the outside.

They can have successful careers, active social lives, and healthy relationships while hiding their internal struggles with drinking.

These individuals are often deeply in denial and it can be very challenging to get them to join alcohol addiction rehab.

Here are a few things you might hear from a functional alcoholic who denies their problematic drinking:

  • I never drink during the day or on weekdays.
  • I never experience hangovers.
  • I eat correctly and exercise, so drinking doesn’t affect me as much.
  • Lots of people drink more than I do.
  • I’ve always been this way; why is it a problem now?

Why People Deny Having An Alcohol Problem

Shame or Guilt

Scientists have found that shame is one of the core underlying emotions of binge drinking.

Many people deny having a problem because they’re embarrassed, ashamed, or feeling guilty about drinking alcohol.

This is especially common with individuals whose parents suffered from alcohol abuse or other substance use problems.

They’ve seen firsthand what it could lead to, yet they’re unable to quit drinking, which leaves them suffering from cognitive dissonance and in denial about their situation.

Individuals suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety disorder, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), or bipolar disorder are especially susceptible to feelings of guilt or shame.

Lack of Information

Many people are unaware of how easily they could develop alcohol use disorder.

They might not realize that they drink heavily or how much alcohol is considered too much.

This lack of information often results in continuing this harmful behavior.

Unlike illicit drugs or opioids, which are generally frowned upon, alcohol is normalized in society.

Anyone of age can drink at any time as long as they stay under the maximum limit allowed while driving or until they start feeling discomfort, which differs from one person to the next.

Neurological Aspects

Some studies show that there might be a neurological aspect that makes an individual deny they have a drinking problem.

Researchers have found that some of the brain centers responsible for self-awareness are also among the first centers to be affected by addiction.

This explains why someone suffering from alcohol use disorder might not be aware of their problem and, therefore, deny it.

Friends and Family

It’s perfectly normal to want to help a loved one struggling with alcohol addiction, but make sure you don’t create excuses for them or enable them.

If your partner can’t go to work because they’re intoxicated from a night of drinking, don’t call in sick or cover for them.

Knowing that there won’t be any consequences or that they can rely on you to cover for them fuels their denial and makes it harder to quit.

It’s also difficult for an alcoholic to face their addiction if everyone else around them also drinks or enables their drinking.

How To Help A Loved One In Denial

Learn About Alcoholism

Before you try to confront or help your loved one, make sure you understand as much about alcoholism as you can.

Learn to recognize the signs or symptoms of alcohol use disorder so you can be confident that they have a problem.

Ask yourself:

  • Do they get angry or irritated when they haven’t had a drink for some time?
  • Are they aware of the negative impacts of alcohol on their life, yet they’re still drinking?
  • Do they drink in the morning, while driving, or in dangerous situations?
  • Is alcohol affecting their social or professional life?

Speak Openly But Don’t Judge

You should never try to push your opinion onto your loved ones or force them to admit their addiction.

They might be in denial because they’re embarrassed or unhappy with their situation, and holding up a judgemental mirror can only make things worse.

Instead, express your concerns with empathy. Focus on their happiness and physical and mental wellbeing.

This shows that you care about them and you’re not judging or looking down on them.

Try telling them what you would do if you were in their shoes instead of telling them what they must do.

Talk About The Effects of Alcohol

When you’re talking to an alcoholic in denial, your opinions come second so leave your opinions out of the conversation.

Focus on asking your loved ones questions that allow them to reflect on their drinking and let them tell their story from their point of view.

Instead of patronizing them for getting a hangover after a night of drinking, ask them how they feel right now and what they would be feeling if they had drunk less or not at all.

Professional Help

Some people refuse to accept help from loved ones or friends, no matter how often you offer it.

They usually respond better to strangers because they’re less likely to be embarrassed or ashamed when admitting their problem.

They might also be more receptive to outside help rather than hearing advice from a friend or family member.

In these cases, it’s better to get help from professionals who are trained in helping people struggling with addiction.

Getting Help for Alcohol Use Disorder is Within Reach…

Denial is quite common in alcohol addiction and when it’s a loved one on the line, it can be highly frustrating.

However, with the proper guidance, knowledge, and professional help, you can gently nudge them onto the right track.

Book an appointment with Curednation today and get your loved one the help they need.


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