Dealing with Denial

Denial is a form of defence mechanism in an attempt to avoid anxiety. This survival strategy helps an individual cope with the sensation of distress. Research indicates that denial may initially work as a protective factor for health-related circumstances by reducing gradual worry and stressors. However, denial has also been recognised as a mental process that can block out painful thoughts and emotions and have a self-destructive effect through lack of awareness or pushing away opportunities. I find myself often discussing the cycle of anxiety and avoidance leading to an increase in symptoms. It appears that if an individual has developed an avoidant strategy to manage their distress, it usually involves the matter remaining unresolved. In fact, it is quite often the case that the matter can become worse. This can also be seen when an individual denies themselves happiness or puts others before themselves. Ignoring one’s issues and denying one’s happiness is often a recipe for disaster. I have come across clients who can deny their issues or do not want to make changes- it is those clients that often struggle to see significant improvement in their mental health.

Most psychologists would agree that the client has to want to change before they can maximise benefit from therapy; denying issues can be a significantly limiting factor regarding psychological intervention. However, when one is able to accept their issues and subsequently work toward change, we often observe significant positive change in their life. Developing appropriate cognitive and behavioural strategies can help reduce psychological distress, dysfunction, and interpersonal issues. Psychotherapy such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can also help develop new, more appropriate habits and coping mechanisms which positively impact everyday life. Clients often report significant positive changes in multiple areas of life, such as work and home with improved confidence and reported positive feedback from others.

If denial is causing problems or preventing you from dealing with a physical or mental health condition, consider talking to one of us today.

David Ahmed, Psychologist & Co-author Celeste Venditto, Psychology Student

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