Definition of Denial:
The action of denying something.

Synonyms of Denial:

Refutation, repudiation, retraction, dissent, etc.

These notes are from recovery in AA and related 12 step programs.
Readers are encouraged to click the external links for more detail.
We hope you find them helpful

Love in fellowship


Denial is bad for two reasons. First, it keeps us from learning from our mistakes, so we keep making them. Second, we don’t listen to others, so we close off ourselves and become lonely. –Keep It Simple | More…

Anna Freud classified denial as a mechanism of the immature mind, denial occurs in mature minds, it is most often associated with death, dying and rape | More…

Denial of responsibility: This form of denial involves avoiding personal responsibility by: blaming: a direct statement shifting culpability and may overlap with denial of fact

Minimizing: an attempt to make the effects or results of an action appear to be less harmful than they may actually be, or justifying: when someone takes a choice and attempts to make that choice look okay due to their perception of what is “right” in a situation.

Regression: when someone acts in a way unbecoming of their age (e.g. whining, temper tantrum, etc.) Someone using denial of responsibility is usually attempting to avoid potential harm or pain by shifting attention away from themselves.


Denial of impact:
Denial of impact involves a person’s avoiding thinking about the harms of his behavior has caused to self or others, i.e. denial of the consequences.

Denial of cycle:
Denial of cycle is where a person avoids looking at their decisions leading up to an event or does not consider their pattern of decision making and how harmful behavior is repeated.

Denial of awareness:
This form of denial attempts to divert pain by claiming that the level of awareness was inhibited by some mitigating variable. This is most typically seen in addiction situations where drug or alcohol abuse is a factor, though it also occasionally manifests itself in relation to mental health issues or the pharmaceutical substances used to treat mental health issues. This form of denial may also overlap with denial of responsibility.

Denial of denial

This can be a difficult concept for many people to identify with in themselves, but is a major barrier to changing hurtful behaviors. Denial of denial involves thoughts, actions and behaviors which bolster confidence that nothing needs to be changed in one’s personal behavior.


DARVO is an acronym to describe a common strategy of abusers: Deny the abuse, then attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby reversing Victim and Offender.

This may involve gas-lighting and victim blaming.
Is ‘The Donald’ in denial (DARVO) | More…


The 5 stages of Grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance

Grieving in substance abuse

1; Denial: People feel that they do not have a problem concerning alcohol or other substances. Even if they do feel as if they might have a small problem they believe that they have complete control over the situation and can stop drinking or doing drugs whenever they want.

Example: “I don’t have to drink all of the time. I can stop whenever I want.”

2; Anger: The anger stage of abusers relates to how they get upset because they have an addiction or are angry that they can no longer use drugs. Some of these examples include “I don’t want to have this addiction anymore.” “This isn’t fair, I’m too young to have this problem.”

3; Bargaining: This is the stage that drug and alcohol abusers go through when they are trying to convince themselves or someone else that they are going to stop abusing in order to get something out of it or get themselves out of trouble (or to justify continuing their use of drugs and/or alcohol).

Example: “God, I promise I’ll never use again if you just get me out of trouble.” “…If you let me stay here, I will never do drugs/alcohol again.”

4; Depression: Sadness and hopelessness are important parts of the depression stage when drug abusers are faced with the reality of living a life without their substance of choice.

Most abusers experience this when they are going through the withdrawal stage quitting their addiction.

5; Acceptance: With substance abusers, admitting the existence of a problem is different from accepting the problem. When a substance abuser admits that they have a problem, this is more likely to occur in the bargaining stage.

5; Acceptance: Accepting that they have a problem is when you realise that you have a problem and start the process to resolve the issue.


is a powerful tool.
Never underestimate its ability to cloud your vision.

Be aware that, for many reasons, we have become experts at using this tool to make reality more tolerable. We have learned well how to stop the pain caused by reality – not by changing our circumstances, but by pretending our circumstances are something other than what they are.

Do not be too hard on yourself. While one part of you was busy creating a fantasy reality, the other part went to work on accepting the truth.

Now, it is time to find courage. Face the truth. Let it sink gently in. When we can do that, we will be moved forward. –The Language of Letting Go/Melody Beattie 24/07 | More…

There were times I knew what I had done, knew what I had said, remembered how I behaved — and yet still I went back for more. I drank alcoholically for years because my pride would not allow me to be alcoholic. –Father Leo | More…


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