Is Anyone Really a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

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. But if you or someone you know is showing signs of denial, don’t feel discouraged. Not everyone who has alcohol use disorder hides or denies they misuse alcohol.

  • Not knowing what will happen or not feeling positive about the outcome can be very difficult to accept.
  • Facing that one word, addiction, meant that I would have to stop, and I didn’t want to give it up.
  • This is then followed by a review of the array of interventions influenced by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family systems models.
  • In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation.
  • The SSCS framework has informed much of contemporary research on AUD and the family.

Another interesting finding related to the overall differences across generations regarding the specific criteria items endorsed by AUD probands and AUD offspring in the first data columns of Tables 1 and ​and3.3. One striking finding involved the 4% of AUD probands overall who admitted to tolerance in the prior five years compared to 57% who endorsed tolerance in AUD offspring. A cursory review of tolerance reports over the years in SDPS AUD probands indicated that this variable had been endorsed by AUD probands at age 35 at a rate similar to the current AUD offspring.

Table 3.

If denial is causing problems or preventing you from dealing with a physical or mental health condition, consider talking to a professional or joining a support group. In other cases, however, denial can be problematic and even harmful. For example, if you stay in denial about a health condition and never see a doctor about it, the problem might worsen. Likewise, if you are in denial about symptoms of a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, you might delay seeking help from your doctor or mental health professional. Half reported a biological father with DSM-III alcoholism and half had no known alcoholic relative (American Psychiatric Association, 1980; Schuckit and Gold, 1988). Using data from two generations of the San Diego Prospective Study (SDPS), we compared AUD subjects who considered themselves non-problematic drinkers (Group 1) with those with AUDs who acknowledged a general alcohol problem (Group 2).

why are alcoholics in denial

While work, relationship, and financial stresses happen to everyone, an overall pattern of deterioration and blaming others may be a sign of trouble. Other indication that you may have a binge-drinking problem include drinking excessively at weekends, holidays, and special occasions, frequently drinking more than you planned, and often forgetting what you said or did while drinking. For example, you recognize that your alcohol use is damaging your marriage, making your depression worse, or causing health problems, but you continue to drink anyway. You have a persistent desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use, but your efforts to quit have been unsuccessful. You often drink more alcohol than you wanted to, for longer than you intended, or despite telling yourself you wouldn’t.

The Role of Denial in Addiction

And not everyone with alcohol use disorder experiences it the same way. For some, blaming others protects them from taking responsibility themselves. Denial, blame and dishonesty may anger loved ones, but it is important to understand that these actions are a product of the disease rather than a true representation of the person’s character. “Mental health care is critical for achieving long-term success in overcoming AUD,” says Elhaj. “Always approach a loved one from a place of support and desire to help them, instead of leading with judgment or anger,” says Omar Elhaj, MD, a senior medical director at LifeStance Health.

  • They tend to prefer drugs because, at the moment of choice, they value drugs more than they value a possible but uncertain future reward (e.g., health, relationships, or opportunities).
  • What might look like denial may actually be a lot more complicated and multilayered for people with high-functioning AUD.
  • You might slowly begin to accept more and more unacceptable behavior.
  • It’s my Body – I didn’t believe that anyone had the right to say anything, because it was my body.
  • The present study showed once more that patients are unlikely to recognize and acknowledge problems related to their alcohol use themselves.

Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking. For example, performing poorly at work, flunking classes, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over. A boundary needs to be serious and firm, but that does not mean that it has to be threatening. Saying, “If you don’t quit drinking, I will leave!” is an ultimatum why are alcoholics in denial and a threat, but saying, “I will not have drinking in my home” is setting a boundary. Using alcohol with someone who is misusing the substance will just keep the cycle going and make it worse rather than giving them a chance to get out. You may think that when you are scolding or berating a loved one for their latest episode, it is anything but enabling—but it actually could be.