Alcohol use disorder affects countless people across the UK, with over 14 million adults experiencing a form of alcohol use disorder.
If not addressed, excessive drinking can have many negative effects on a person’s life. Alcoholism can not only affect a person’s finances, relationships, and career but have detrimental effects on their physical health and mental health.
Being in denial about a problem simply prevents the problem from being solved – and the same applies to alcoholism. This is why it’s essential for alcoholics in denial to face their problem and seek help – but how do you help an alcoholic in denial?
That’s what we’re going to explore on this page. Read on to learn more about alcoholism, the signs of alcohol addiction, why people may be in denial about their drinking problem, and how you can help a loved one in denial about their alcoholism.
Alcohol addiction/ alcohol dependence is a form of alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder, referred to as AUD, is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder, diagnosed as either mild, moderate, or severe. Alcohol dependence is the more severe form of the disorder, and alcohol abuse is classed as a milder form of AUD.
Those with alcohol use disorders struggle to control their alcohol consumption – they may drink too much, too often, too little – or at inappropriate times or in strange places. Read on for some of the key signs that somebody has an addiction to alcohol.
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One of the main signs that somebody has an alcohol addiction is that they are unable to (or struggle to) control their alcohol consumption. Although over two billion people consume alcoholaround the world, and everybody has different drinking behaviour,
A person with an alcohol problem may struggle to control the amount they drink, how often they drink, where they drink, or when they stop drinking. For example, they may drink in strange places or at inappropriate times of the day (at work, or first thing in the morning).
Likewise, they may find it hard to stop drinking once they start, whether it be the morning after or the same evening. This can have a negative impact on their overall well-being, including their physical health. Not all people who abuse alcohol are alcoholics, but alcoholics will almost always abuse alcohol.
Another sign that somebody has an alcohol problem is that they prioritise alcohol. If you think somebody has a problem, check whether they prioritise alcohol. Do they neglect their responsibilities in order to drink? Do they regularly miss important events to drink alcohol?
If the answer is yes, then they could have an alcohol problem. Drinking can quickly become the most important part of an alcoholics’ life, which can lead to them neglecting other aspects of their lives. For example, they may stop participating in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed, or stop completing household chores and other responsibilities.
Those who are dependent on alcohol will usually have a high tolerance. This means that they may appear sober or unaffected by alcohol, even after drinking a large amount.
They may drink the same amount as the people around them, but seem sober while everybody else appears drunk. However, a person’s alcohol tolerance can also depend on height and weight.
In the early stages of alcoholism, it is much easier to hide the symptoms or be in denial about the problem. However, it will progress, and it will become much harder to hide it from yourself and others.
Somebody that is in denial about the problem or hides it from others is sometimes informally referred to as a high-functioning alcoholic. High-functioning alcoholics may find it difficult to face up to their drinking problems, which is why they may make excuses for their behaviour or attempt to justify their drinking habits.
Some alcoholics may blame others for their problems, and others will simply deny that they drink too much. This is often a way of defending their egos. However, this does more harm than good – the longer that they are in denial, the longer they’re going without the help they need.
Even if you understand your drinking is harmful, your addiction may lead to you still having the physical consumption to drink alcohol. This is a form of cognitive dissonance – preventing yourself from having to come to terms with your addiction.
Some people may be in denial of their addiction to alcohol because they are scared of change. Many people turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism – and it can be scary knowing that the coping mechanism is going to be taken away. It’s often easier to cling to familiar things, even if they are unhealthy.
Others may be scared to open up about their problem as there can be a negative stigma against alcoholism. They may be scared of being judged, or don’t want to associate themselves with the stigma.
People in denial may have negative views of people with alcohol use disorders themselves, and don’t want to believe that they have the same problem.
Watching a person succumb to alcoholism can be difficult – and it can be even harder to witness if they’re in denial about the problem. It can not only affect the person but affect their family and loved ones too.
Although it is not usually your responsibility to help an alcoholic friend or family member, you may wish to help them if you are in a position to do so.
Alcoholics need a solid support network whether it be friends, family, spouses, or professional support – including when they’re coming to terms with their addiction, and in addiction recovery.
If you wish to help a loved one who is in denial about their alcoholism, know that you don’t have to deal with it alone, and there is support out there for you.
Read on for some of the best ways that you can help somebody who is in denial about their alcoholism, from simply opening up to them to encouraging them to seek treatment.
f you’re worried about a person’s drinking problem, open up to them about how you feel. Although it can be frustrating to watch somebody you love continue to drink alcohol, it’s important that you avoid expressing your frustrations.
Instead, approach them with love and care. Speak to them in a calm and honest way, and explain why you are concerned. This can encourage them to open up instead of becoming defensive about their drinking.
Confrontation can lead to conflict, so try to keep the conversation calm and remain in control of the conversation. If the person is in denial, they may try to steer the conversation in a different direction.
It’s also important to avoid enabling their behaviour – if you want them to stop drinking, you should set clear boundaries. For example, don’t provide them with alcohol, don’t make excuses for their behaviour, and don’t let them drink alcohol in your home.
A person in denial about their alcohol addiction may lie or manipulate in order to continue drinking alcohol. Although it may feel like the easiest option to give in to the demands and enable their drinking habits, it will only feed the problem and make it worse.
It can feel difficult to say no to somebody and put firm boundaries in place, but it’s essential if you want them to come to terms with their addiction.
Enabling a person’s dangerous drinking habits allows them to continue being in denial about the problem, ultimately preventing them from seeing the severity of the problem and seeking help.
A person in denial about their alcoholism may not react well to being confronted about their drinking habits or may continue to deny they have a problem. If this is the case, it may be helpful to stage an intervention.
An intervention can include loved ones, family members, and sometimes medical professionals or mental health services. Interventions can differ depending on the circumstances, however, the aim of alcohol interventions generally remains the same – to encourage the person to seek treatment.
Be sure to conduct thorough research before completing an alcohol intervention. Not everybody will react well to an intervention, so it’s important that you consider who you should invite.
Although you may be tempted to invite colleagues, friends, and distant family members, in many cases, it’s best to keep it small and private. Check out this page to learn more about alcohol interventions.
After opening up to your alcoholic loved one or conducting an intervention, you should encourage them to seek treatment. Inform them of the next steps they can take – whether it be professional support at a rehab clinic or detox centre or support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
The first step towards recovery is admitting that they have a problem, and seeking help. A full rehab program is usually the most effective approach – including detoxification, therapy, and secondary treatment.
There are different forms of rehab, and one size does not fit all when it comes to addiction treatment. For example, some people benefit more from attending residential rehab as an inpatient, whereas others prefer outpatient rehabilitation.
Likewise, some people prefer to detox from alcohol at home, whereas others will be recommended to complete a medical detox, where they’re given detox medication and medical supervision to relieve and monitor withdrawal symptoms.
Detoxification aims at combating the physical part of addiction, whereas addiction therapy can deal with the social, psychological, and behavioural aspects of addiction.
Some forms of therapy in rehab include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), counselling, interpersonal therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and many more. Some rehab clinics also offer holistic therapies.
Secondary treatment, also referred to as aftercare, aims at providing you with ongoing support throughout your recovery. The support doesn’t have to end once you finish rehab – you can continue receiving support in the form of further counselling, group therapy, or support groups.
Contact us today to learn more about rehab treatment, or to get the ball rolling on the admissions process.
At Help4Addiction, we’ll listen to your story to find the right place for you or your loved one to receive the addiction treatment they need. Whether you’re an alcoholic in denial or you’re trying to support a loved one with an alcohol problem, we are here for you.
Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.
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