Friend in Denial

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have a good friend from college who has been smoking weed and drinking heavily ever since I meet. We were both in college then so I assumed it was an age appropriate use of substances. We have since graduated and both moved on to graduate school. She has continued to use substances heavily and also exhibited some disturbing symptoms.

She has been hyper-sexual, has major mood swings, black and white thinking, and is having major issues completing her requirements for her grad program due to extreme anxiety. She really wanted to have a baby (we are both under 30) and married a man to do so that she had only know for 8 months at the time of the wedding. Three months later she got pregnant (against her husbands wishes) and now claims to be “over the baby thing” and can’t wait to take up drugs again once “it’s out of her.” I am 100% sure she still smokes weed and drinks occasionally but she claims to be “mostly sober.” I have given her referrals to seek help, and tried to empathize with her. She claims she doesn’t want to “stir anything up” emotionally because that would be bad for the baby and therefore won’t seek treatment. I am extremely fearful for her babies life. Before being pregnant she would drive under the influence all the time. I am in the field and feel certain that she will not be “a good enough mother” due to her drug use, undiagnosed mental illness and selfishness. Is there anything I can do? I feel like i have been watching her spiral out of control for years.

A. Unfortunately, there may be little that you can do in this situation. Sadly, there are many irresponsible individuals who have children. As you suspect, your friend may be mentally ill and in denial. The major concern is substance abuse while being pregnant. The substance abuse can be detrimental to the unborn child. When the child is born it may be revealed that the mother was using harmful substances. If the hospital staff suspect or have evidence of substance abuse during pregnancy, they will usually contact child protective services. Child protective services will conduct an investigation to determine if the mother is fit to care for the child. If she is found to be an unfit parent, the child will be removed from her care indefinitely.

You should continue to try to convince your friend to seek help from a mental health professional. You might want to suggest attending a psychotherapy appointment with her. She may be open to that idea but given her refusal in the past to accept help, it is unlikely. Another possibility is that you can contact child protective services and ask them for advice in this situation. They may have a protocol that they follow in cases such as these.

When the child is born, you could offer your support and advice to your friend. Advice may improve her parenting skills and subsequently help the child. You could also suggest that she enroll in parenting classes. A PBS special that recently aired entitled “This Emotional Life” featured information about the importance of mother and child attachment during the first year of life. The video describes programs across the country designed to help new mothers develop healthy attachments to their children. Information about attachment can be found at this link. This resource may connect your friend to a program in the community that can help her to develop better parenting skills. I hope this helps. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Friend in Denial. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/04/15/friend-in-denial/