What is Denial in Psychology? How to Recognize and Overcome Denial in Yourself

What is Denial in Psychology? How to Recognize and Overcome Denial in Yourself

In psychology, denial is a defense mechanism in which a person denies the reality of a situation or event that is painful or traumatic. This can be done consciously or unconsciously. Denial can be helpful in the short-term, by helping people to cope with difficult situations. However, if it is used to avoid dealing with difficult issues, it can be harmful. In this blog post, we will discuss what denial is, how to recognize it in yourself and others, and how to overcome it.

What Is Denial In Psychology?

What is Denial in Psychology? How to Recognize and Overcome Denial in YourselfDenial in psychology is a defense mechanism. That can be used to protect oneself from difficult thoughts, emotions, or memories. It is a way of avoiding reality by refusing to accept or acknowledge information that is unpleasant or threatening.

Denial can be exhibited by an individual in different ways. In fact, denial in psychology can be exhibited on a continuum. Ranging from very mild and barely noticeable to extreme and life-threatening.

At the mild end of the continuum, denial might look like making excuses for bad behavior. Or refusing to admit that you made a mistake. It can also involve rationalizing your choices or downplaying the importance of an event. For example, you might tell yourself that it’s not a big deal if you lose your temper. Or that you had a good reason to lie.

At the extreme end of the continuum, denial can be life-threatening. For example, someone who is in denial about their addiction to drugs or alcohol may continue using even when it’s clear that their habit is harming them physically or emotionally.

Understand The Concept

To get a clear understanding of denial in psychology, it is first important to understand the definition of the word. Denial is defined as a refusal to admit the truth or reality of something. It can be an unconscious defense mechanism that people use to protect themselves from difficult thoughts or feelings.

Types of Denial

There are three primary types of denial: cognitive, emotional, and behavioral.

Cognitive denial occurs when someone refuses to acknowledge or believe the information. That is contrary to their beliefs or worldview. For example, a person who is convinced that they are not capable of failure may cognitively deny any evidence to the contrary.

Emotional denial involves refusing to feel emotions that are uncomfortable or painful. For example, someone who has been through a traumatic experience may emotionally deny the event ever happened.

Behavioral denial is when someone avoids or withdraws from situations that are uncomfortable or painful. For example, a person who is trying to lose weight may avoid social gatherings where food will be served.

Theory Of Denial In Psychology

The concept is known to arise from the works of Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst. And, his daughter Anna Freud helped to develop the theory of denial. The term was first used by Anna Freud in her book “The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense.”

In that book, Anna Freud described denial as a “psychic protective shield.” That the ego uses to protect itself from overwhelming anxiety or pain.

Denial in psychology can be seen as a way for people to avoid or postpone dealing with difficult issues. It can allow them to maintain their self-image and beliefs. And, it can keep them from having to confront the reality of a situation.

She believed that denial was a very powerful defense mechanism. And, that it could be very difficult to overcome. However, it is primarily used in children and adolescents. It could be damaging in the long run if it is not addressed.

Denial In Everyday Life

Theory Of Denial In Psychology

There are people who live in a state of denial in their everyday lives. They might refuse to believe that a loved one has died, or they may refuse to accept that they have a serious illness. Denial can also manifest as refusing to face up to the consequences of our actions.

For example, someone who has been caught cheating may insist that they are innocent, even when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Moreover, they may go to great lengths to avoid dealing with the consequences of their actions, such as losing their job or being ostracized by friends and family.

So, denial in everyday life can take many different forms, but the common denominator is an unwillingness or inability to face reality.

How To Recognize Denial In Yourself

Denial is a defense mechanism that can be both harmful and helpful. It can be harmful because it can keep people from facing difficult truths or dealing with their problems. However, it can also be helpful because it can allow people to temporarily cope with difficult situations.

There are various signs and symptoms of denial in psychology, which can be different depending on the person. Some of these signs include;

Signs Of Denial In Psychology

  • Refusing to admit that there is a problem.
  • Believing that the problem is not as bad as it seems.
  • Ignoring or minimizing the problem.
  • Making excuses for the problem.
  • Trying to forget about the problem.
  • Trying to avoid talking about or thinking about the problem.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the problem

These signs are important to recognize because they can indicate that someone is in denial and may need help. If you or someone you know is in denial, it is important to seek professional help.

Because denial in psychology is can be seen as a defense mechanism, it is important to understand why someone might be in denial. There are many possible reasons why someone might be in denial. Learn about these reasons.

What Are Reasons For Denial In Psychology?

What Are Reasons For Denial In Psychology?Denial in psychology contains several reasons that can be either personal or environmental. Personal denial is usually a coping mechanism to protect someone from something they cannot handle emotionally.

Environmental denial occurs when people refuse to accept information because it is too difficult or threatening to acknowledge. Some of these reasons are explained below;

Six Reasons For Denial In Psychology

  • Fear of the truth – People may avoid the truth because it is too frightening or overwhelming to face. This can be especially true if the person believes that accepting the truth would mean they are responsible for something bad that happened.
  • Believing that facing the problem would be too difficult or painful – It is often easier to deny that a problem exists than to face the challenges of fixing it. People may believe that dealing with the problem would be too difficult, time-consuming, or stressful.
  • Lack of information or misinformation – People may not have all the facts about a situation and may choose to deny what they do know because it is too frightening or confusing. If people are given false information, they may also choose to deny the truth because it does not fit with their views.
  • Feeling ashamed or embarrassed about the problem – Sometimes, people may be so ashamed or embarrassed about a problem that they would rather deny it exists than face the shame.
  • Hope that the problem will go away on its own – People may hope that if they do not acknowledge the problem, it will just go away. This often happens with health problems or relationship issues.
  • Pressure from others to deny the problem exists – In some cases, people may feel pressure from friends, family, or society to deny that a problem exists. This can be especially true if the problem is seen as negative or shameful.

These are just some of the possible reasons why someone might be in denial. It is important to remember that everyone experiences denial in different ways. So the ways to deal with it will also be different.

Negative Impacts Of Denial In Psychology

There are a number of negative impacts that denial can have on psychology. Some of these impacts are;

  • Keep people from getting the help they need – If someone is in denial about their mental health condition, for example, they may not seek treatment or ignore signs that they need help. This can lead to worse mental health outcomes and even suicide.
  • Prevent people from facing their problems – Denial can also keep people from facing their problems head-on. This can lead to avoidance behaviors and stagnation in personal growth.
  • Create barriers to relationships – Denial can also create barriers in personal relationships. For example, if one person is in denial about an issue, it can be difficult for the other person to talk about it openly and honestly.
  • Lead to distorted thinking – When someone is in denial, they may start to believe their own lies. This can lead to distorted thinking and even psychosis in some cases.
  • Cause emotional distress – It often leads to a great deal of emotional distress. This is because the person is constantly fighting against reality and trying not to face what’s really going on. This can be very exhausting and lead to a lot of stress.
  • Create feelings of isolationPeople who are in denial may start to feel isolated from others. This is because they may start to believe that they are the only ones who know what’s really going on and that no one else can understand them.

Now, these negative impacts can be seen in both individuals who are in denial and those who are around someone who is in denial. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is in denial about an issue, it can be very difficult to deal with.

How To Overcome Denial

How To OvercomeOvercoming denial in psychology can be difficult, but it is not impossible. There are various steps that require equal amounts of dedication and effort. Some tips to overcome it are:

Identify When It’s Occurring

This may be difficult at first, but with practice, it becomes easier. Denial often manifests as a refusal to accept a situation or reality. So, the identification process usually starts with identifying the problem or reality that is being denied. Denial can lead to many negative consequences, so it is important to identify it as soon as possible.

Accept The Reality

Once you have identified the reality that is being denied, you need to accept it. This doesn’t mean that you have to like it or agree with it, but acknowledging it is an important step in overcoming denial. It can be done through accepting things as they are and being honest with yourself.

Understand Why Denial Is Happening

It is often helpful to understand why denial is happening. This can be done by exploring the underlying emotions or psychological factors that are causing it. Also, understanding the concept of denial can help as well. This is related to the previous step of accepting the reality that will eventually lead you to understand, that why denial is happening to you. Because the situation that you’re trying to avoid, now has been accepted by you.

Challenge The Beliefs

Challenge The BeliefsIt includes those beliefs that are contributing to denial. This can be done by challenging them with evidence and logic. Often, the underlying reason for denying a situation or reality are certain beliefs that are not accurate or rational. Challenging these beliefs can help reduce the power they have over someone’s thoughts and actions.

Create Support System

Having those who support you and can help you through this process is essential. Denial can be a very isolating experience, so it is important to have people who will understand what you are going through and can offer encouragement. The support system is a very encouraging way to start recovering from denial. It includes; your family, friends, support groups, therapists, loved ones, etc.

Start Small

Although it may seem like an insurmountable task, it is important to start small. Trying to overcome denial all at once can be overwhelming and lead to failure. Start by addressing one issue or reality at a time. This will make the process more manageable and increase the likelihood of success.

Take Action

When you understand the reality, accept it, and understand why denial is happening, it is time to take action. This usually means addressing the problem or reality that is being denied. This can be difficult, but it is an important step in overcoming denial. When you took a small step into the recovery of Denial, you’re on the right path. Further with more actions, you’re getting there and will be fine very soon.

Seek Professional Help

After trying everything and every tip, if you are still struggling to overcome denial. Then, you really need professional help, it may be necessary. A therapist or counselor can assist in identifying the factors that are contributing to denial and provide guidance on how to address them. Or if the situations get worse, the doctor may you the medication treatment. And, with these types of help, you will recover very soon from denial in psychology.

Denial can be a very powerful force and it can be difficult to overcome on your own. If you are struggling to address and overcome denial, professional help may be necessary. A therapist or counselor can assist in identifying the factors that are contributing to denial and provide guidance on how to address them.

Overcoming denial is possible, but it takes time, effort, and dedication. It’s not an easy process, but with the right tools and support system, it is achievable.


Denial in psychology is a powerful tool that can help people protect themselves from difficult emotions and painful memories. However, it can also be harmful if it is used to avoid facing reality. Denial can be harmful when it leads to distorted thinking, unrealistic expectations, and self-delusion.

In fact, it can impact both our mental and physical health. If you are experiencing denial in yourself or someone else, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. There are people who face denial in their everyday life. So, overcoming denial is not an easy task. It takes time, effort, and a lot of patience.

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