Alcoholism is a dangerous and often terrifying disease for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that when a person is addicted to alcohol, they often engage in highly risky behaviors, often blacking out and feeling extremely powerless while drinking.
Although a person who is addicted to alcohol often finds themselves in a number of terrifying and uncomfortable situations, many people who are addicted to alcohol remain in denial about their problem.
Denial and the Brain's Reward Center
One reason that many alcoholics remain in denial about their problem is that when a person becomes addicted to a substance like alcohol, their brain's reward center becomes completely fixated on finding and using more alcohol. The brain becomes wired to find and use alcohol at all costs, and begins prioritizing drinking above anything else.
Anyone or anything that gets in the way of drinking is rejected or avoided. Part of this rejection process is the act of denial. If the brain is able to deny that an alcoholic has a problem, the alcoholic may go on drinking uninterrupted. Admitting that one has a problem means that the brain's reward center is at risk for losing access to alcohol.
Social Misconceptions May Lead to Denial
There are many social misconceptions that may also lead a person who is struggling with alcohol abuse to remain in denial about the severity of their problem. For example, many people may consciously or unconsciously believe that there is such a thing as a "typical" alcoholic.
They may think that because they are not a certain age, or from a certain economic background, that they do not fit the description of what an alcoholic is. In fact, alcoholism is a disease that does not discriminate. Any person of any age may become an alcoholic.
Incorrect Notions of What an Alcoholic Is
Many alcoholics may believe that they do not in fact have a drinking problem because of certain behaviors that they do or do not possess. For example, they may believe that because they do not drink at certain times of the day, or because they do not drink alone, or that they do not drink certain kinds of alcoholic beverages, they are not an alcoholic.
In fact, any person who is unable to control how much they drink, or who is chemically dependent on alcohol, is an alcoholic and should seek the help they need.
Loved Ones and Denial
Alcoholics are not the only people who may be in denial around their alcohol problem. The friends and family of alcoholics are often in denial about an alcoholic's problem. There can be a number of reasons for this.
A person who is addicted to alcohol may go to great lengths to conceal the degree of their alcohol abuse. They may lie or make it otherwise easy for their loved ones to be in denial about the severity of the problem.
Confronting an alcoholic about their disease is also no easy feat. Many times, the loved ones of alcoholics may subconsciously avoid confronting the alcoholic in their life because they are afraid of what will happen if they do say something.
There are many confusing emotions that may come along with being the loved one of an alcoholic. Feelings of guilt, shame, and helplessness are very common, and can also lead to a sensation of helplessness.
It is important for the loved ones of an alcoholic to know that with help, their loved one can become sober and go on to lead a happy and productive life.