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Denial is a Powerful Impediment to Treatment

How Can a Person Overcome Denial and Get Help?

There’s no single, easy method for helping a person overcome their denial of a problem like depression or bipolar disorder. Since the roots of denial are often buried deep within a person’s sense of who they are and how they were brought up to view themselves and the world around them, it can take a life-changing event to shake up a person’s denial.

Such an event can happen when a loved one close to us dies because they themselves didn’t seek care or treatment from a medical professional for an illness that they could’ve survived. It could be when we see the depths of despair or emotional turmoil a friend or family member suffers, and resolve that we’re not going to walk that same difficult, painful path. Or it could just be that a person finally gets so fed up with the issue hurting meaningful parts of their lives – such as a loved one or their career – that they decide they’re going to give it a try.

Sometimes combating denial is simply done by acknowledging that you may or may not have a problem, but you’ll go to a professional therapist to check it out. If you decide to go down this route (perhaps with the “encouragement” or threats from a spouse or loved one), try your best to clear your head and keep an open mind about what you hear from the professional about the problem or issue you’re facing. If you don’t, you’re just wasting both your and the professional’s time.

Denial Can be Overcome

Denial is something many of us have simply learned as a largely-ineffective coping mechanism to deal with certain problems in life. Because it is something we learned to do, like math or riding a bicycle, it is something that can be un-learned as well.

Paradoxically, the best way to unlearn this behavior is to admit you’re using it and to seek out help. A therapist will simply help you learn other, more effective and healthier ways of coping with issues or problems that arise in your life. It’s a simple process that can be done in just a few months’ time for most people who give it a try.

Denial is a Powerful Impediment to Treatment

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Denial is a Powerful Impediment to Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 9, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.