What is Denial in psychology & how to deal with it?

What is Denial?

Denial, the most judgmental word ever. The meaning depends on the viewers’ mentality. We often have an instinctive tendency to deny the magnitude of life`s challenges and how they affect us. One can think denial means refusal that doesn’t agree with your pursuit and one can also think denial means the right when someone tries to curb it down. But very few around us would understand the authentic meaning. Faced with monumental change, we all tend to convince ourselves that our life will continue unscathed. For example global warming, we know it is going to harm our earth but we deny to adopt preventive measures which may bring about our downfall.

What is denial psychology?

In psychoanalytical theory, denial is a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.Wikipedia

It is the primary defense mechanism that most people use to cope with highly stressful situations. It often involves blocking external events from our conscious awareness. Essentially, if a situation is too much for us to handle, then we refuse to experience it at all. That doesn’t make the facts or the reality of the situation go away, but it allows us to pretend that it isn’t real, therefore reducing its impact on us.


Types of Denial

  1. Simple denial occurs when someone denies that something unpleasant is happening. For example, a person with terminal cancer might deny that he/she is going to die.
  2. Minimization occurs when a person admits an unpleasant fact while denying its seriousness. A person about to get divorced might, for example, brush the divorce off as no big deal.
  3. Projection occurs when a person admits both the seriousness and reality of an unpleasant fact but blames someone else. For example, the cancer patient might insist that his or her doctor is providing inadequate care and that a different doctor could provide a different outcome.
  4. In implicative denial, people recognize that something untoward is happening but they fail to act because they are emotionally uncomfortable or troubled about it.

 Other types of Denial

  1. Denial of denial: the denial of the unpleasant fact and the insistence that one is not experiencing denial.
  2. Denial of cycle: the inability to acknowledge what is happening. A domestic violence victim, for example, might deny that his or her spouse previously engaged in behavior that led to abuse.
  3. Denial of responsibility: the failure to recognize a person’s culpability in an unpleasant event caused by that person. For example, a driver who hit and injured another person might deny the impact of the accident, deny responsibility, or even justify his or her actions.

Understanding denial and its purpose 

The word which acknowledges it’s okay to be a denial and it’s okay to be the reason for denial. It’s okay to deny something that happens against your consent and permission. It is your right and totally valid to say “no” wherever you are out of comfort. But it can be a major factor of hatred when you are a denial; when you don’t want to accept the truth or reality happening in your life, especially in our adults. It might also be a precursor to making some sort of the change in your life. It might be a painful or stressful issue.

Refusing to acknowledge that something is wrong is a way of coping with emotional conflict, stress, painful thoughts, threatening information, and anxiety. You can be in denial about anything that makes you feel vulnerable or threatens your sense of control, such as an illness, addiction, eating disorder, personal violence, financial problems, or relationship conflicts. You can be in denial about something happening to you or to someone else.

When you are in denial, you:

  • won’t try to understand a difficult situation
  • try to hide from the facts of a problem
  • downplay possible consequences of the issue
  • start thinking about animosity 

When you deny something, you :

  • get jumbled into the self-created depressing thoughts
  • you start disbelieving whether you have done right

Common signs of denial

  • Rationalizing the problem. Although rationalizations may make sense on the surface, they often mask the extent of the mental illness problem.
  • Blaming others. It’s natural to feel defensive when someone brings up your level of drinking or drug use. However, flipping the situation around to blame someone else can be a form of denial. If you find yourself saying, “Well, it’s really my partner’s fault because she’s always nagging me,” you may be using blame to divert attention from your own problems.
  • Comparing your circumstance to others’. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you are more or less than the people around you. Even if you seem “better adjusted, mental illness may be affecting your everyday life.
  • Pretending to be compliant. In some situations, it feels best to just nod your head and agree when someone expresses concern about your mental health. However, this is often a sign of denial. Making promises with no intent to follow through, pretending to look into treatment options, or continually apologizing may be signs that denial is a problem for you.
  • Suppressing thoughts or emotions about the problem. In the long run, it can be very harmful to suppress thoughts and feelings about your mental health. Consciously deciding, “I’m just not going to think about that now” is a sign that your illness may have gotten out of hand.
  • Feeling hopeless about your future mental health. Working through mental illness is challenging, and some feelings of hopelessness are normal. If you find yourself using hopelessness to get out of changing — “It’s no use, I’ll always be broken” — it may be a form of denial.
  • “My life, my problem.” People with this mentality do not believe that anyone else should express concern about their mental illness. However, this can be a way of denying the impact on your friends, family members, and other loved ones.(mentalhealthcentre.org)

When denial can be helpful 

If you are refusing the situation or time or any reason that against the feeling of being more secure, safe, and more comforting and when you know you are not hurting anyone’s sentiments. When someone tries to make you agree forcefully. Being a reason of denial gives your mind the opportunity to unconsciously absorb shocking or distressing information at a pace that won’t send you into a psychological tailspin.

Some examples of healthy denial; when :

  1. someone trying to hurt you intentionally or make you feel vulnerable physically, emotionally and mentally.
  2.  you disagree with anything
  3.  you have not done anything wrong
  4.  It is against the social norms of our society but you are not comfortable with it.
  5.  you want to stop something inhuman from happening around you.

You initially deny the stressful situation. But slowly your mind will absorb the reality more precisely and you will start coping up with this stressful situation and will surely start finding ways to deal with it.

When denial can be harmful 

If denial persists and prevents you from taking appropriate action, such as consulting your doctor, when you don’t want to accept someone’s refusal when you don’t agree something can happen against your will when you have overconfidence in the decisions you have taken.

Consider these examples of unhealthy denial:

  1. A college student witnesses a violent shooting but claims not to be affected by it.
  2. When the partner of an older man in the end stage of life refuses to discuss health care directives and wills with him, insisting that he’s getting better.
  3. When you like someone but he/she doesn’t feel the same and you don’t wanna understand that.
  4. The parents of a teen with drug addiction keep giving their child extra pocket money.
  5. When you know your actions are going to hurt you or the people attached to you.
  6. When you swear to get rid of any kind of addiction but couldn’t deny using it again.

In situations such as these, denial might prevent you or your loved one from getting help, such as medical treatment or counseling, or dealing with problems that can spiral out of control — all with potentially devastating long-term consequences.

Is Denial a mental disorder?

In healthy denial, slowly you understand the fact that being in denial and accepting it positively is the biggest asset of life. You may feel disgusted for a while but learning from it will make you a long-run champion. On the other hand, it is one of the biggest reasons for our downfall or a reason for self discomfort. It can be a reason for lacking the ability to perceive the realities of one’s own condition. People don’t feel comfortable admitting to themselves or others that they have a condition of inability to accept someone else perception. You always try to protect yourself by refusing the seriousness of the condition you are going through. You start losing your ability to tackle challenges. And this slowly starts tieing a knot to a serious health condition called anosognosia. It can slow or stall the mental health treatment too.

Anosognosia is a result of changes to the brain. It is not just stubbornness or outright denial, which is a defense mechanism some people use when they receive a difficult diagnosis to cope with. In fact, anosognosia is central in conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. And if this disorder is not diagnosed early you will eventually lose your ability to take in new information and renew your perception of yourself or overall health.(healthline.com)


How to deal with it? 

It isn’t always easy to tell if denial is holding you back. The strength of denial can change over time, especially for someone with chronic illness — some periods are linked to less defensiveness, and at other times denial may be much stronger. If you feel stuck or if someone you trust suggests that you’re in denial, however, you might try these strategies:

  1. Honestly examine what you fear.
  2. Think about the potential negative consequences of not taking action.no
  3. Allow yourself to express your fears and emotions.
  4. Journal about your experience.
  5. Open up to a trusted friend or loved one.
  6. Participate in a support group.

If you can’t make progress dealing with a stressful situation on your own — you’re stuck in the denial phase — consider talking to a mental health provider. He or she can help you find healthy ways to cope with the situation rather than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist.(mayoclinic.org)



Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on telegram

Leave a Comment

My Personal Favorites
Get Notified
Join Us

Be an Author

Publish your own blog
Related Articles
What does it feel like to be depressed

Decoding the demons: What depression feels like?

Depression is not just about feeling sad it is much more than that, it is feeling hopeless about life. Sometimes it feels like never-ending darkness in which a person is imprisoned. It is the phase where nothing goes wrong but yet looks all erroneous.

Read More »
Taming the depression with some phenomenal offbeat tactics

Taming the depression with some phenomenal offbeat tactics

Have you ever perceived a total loss of hope, complete dejection or sadness, and negativity surrounding you so strong that you are like, “What the hell? Am I being too dramatic or what?” The answer is “NO.” It is quite natural to feel this way when one is going through a depressive phase of one’s life.

Read More »

Suicide prevention: How do you get involved?

Do you feel that you are so done with everything in life?
Have you been into suicidal thoughts lately?
Well, everything you are feeling now is very much real and you are definitely not the only one (Been there, done that!). Trust me. It gets better even if you can’t see through it from where you stand now.

Read More »
Depression and its Types

Depression and its Types

Depression is not a new word in these times. It is one of the commonest mental illnesses in the world today. Oftentimes, it is a term used to describe the feeling of sadness in general because of the occurrences such as losing a job, not getting the desired score in an exam or ending of a relationship, etc. However, this cannot be precisely called depression because these feelings may go away in a day or two.

Read More »
What are some Causes for Suicide in India?

What are some Causes for Suicide in India?

Suicide, The loss of every materialistic and non-materialistic endearment. A farmer, actor, doctor’s son, young girl, a whole family, there is no distinction since they are all humans. One can imagine a part of their pain and pity them for what they have done, reasons are unworthy.

Read More »

When is Sorrow Sickness? – History of Depression

The term “depression” is akin to a recess i.e. decrease in terms of the world economy. However, concerning psychology, it refers to a major imbalance in the ways someone relates to his/her usual sources of joy. For example, the person in question experiences a drop or change in feelings, reduction in energy to carry out usual daily activities – often showing characteristic persistent sadness

Read More »