Defense Mechanisms of the Addictive Personality
Addicts have an “accounting
system” that justifies why they don’t have a problem. The
alcohol/addict will spend the counseling hour telling you why they
don’t have an addiction, while the person who struggles with it less
is more open to the idea that they could have an addiction.
Stephanie Brown, researcher in alcoholism says that alcoholics
believe two things strongly—a) “I am really not an alcoholic” and b)
“I can really control my drinking.”
The alcoholic/addict holds up a
picture of what they would be like if they were a “true alcoholic.”
Denying – There is not
problem. The problem lies outside the person’s conscious awareness.
General: “I don’t have a problem.”
Alcoholic: “I am not an alcoholic. I don’t
know what you are talking about.”
Sexaholic: “I don’t have a problem with this.”
[they have not added all the times they acted out in a sexually
RX addict: “I don’t take narcotics.” [when they
are on the fentanil patch]
Lying - We lie, distort the
truth, leave out important details.
General: “I don’t really have that much of a
Alcoholic: “I have never blacked out.” [when
they have] “I haven’t gotten drunk ever.”
[when they have] “I only had two.”
[when they had three or four] “I don’t really drink.” [when they
drink wine with dinner] When confronted about the apparent
contradiction, they say that they are being overly picky and
Sexaholic: “I have never been with anyone
else.” [when they have had a lap dance.]
RX addict: “I don’t take narcotics.” [when they
are on the fentanil patch]
Manipulation - We argue,
tease, mock, become silent, cry, etc. when confronted about the
General: “This is ridiculous.” “You really
think I have a problem.” “Well, I just better watch myself
around you.” [mockingly]
Alcoholic: “If you did a better job of
organizing stuff, then maybe I would have to drink.”
Sexaholic: Pouts, complains, “makes” the
other feel guilty for not having sex.
Accusing - Attacking the
person and pointing out there problems.
General: “Well, you have problems too.” “You
lie as well.”
Alcoholic: “You drink yourself.” “You are just
overly sensitive because your mother drank.” “You think
everyone is an alcoholic.”
Sexaholic: “You are cheating on me.” [to
deflect attention off of themselves]
Threatening - Using threats
to make the person stop talking about the problem.
General: “You better knock it off.” “I don’t
have to live with you.”
Alcoholic: “If you want someone else that
doesn’t drink, go for it.” “You better stop trying
to control me.”
Sexaholic: “If you don’t put out, I am going to
look somewhere else.”
Drug addict: Uses physical and emotional abuse
to stop the conversation.
Judging - If you did this
or that right, things wouldn’t be so bad.
General: “You are controlling.” “You a
Alcoholic: “You are being critical.”
Sexaholic: “Your view of sex is pretty
Projecting - You have
problems too. You always manipulate to get what you want.
Alcoholic: “I think my wife is the one with the
Sexaholic: “I think my spouse is the one having
an affair.” “My spouse isn’t understanding.” “My wife is such a
Gambling: “My wife has spent more money than I
The treatment for Projecting: Ask, “do you ever do
the same thing?”
Blaming - Making others
responsible for one’s drinking/using
General: “I need ___ because it is so
stressful.” “You make me ____.”
Alcoholic: “I drink because I have such a
Sexaholic: “If we had more sexual relations, I
wouldn’t have the lust problem that I have.”
Gambling: “We have so much debt, I need to find
a way to earn money quickly.”
The treatment for Blaming: Take responsibility for
our actions. Admit that it is my fault.
Humor - We make light of
the situation and turn it into a joke.
General: [laughing] “You really think I have a
problem don’t you?”
Alcoholic: [laughing] “Yep, I am a drunk.”
[sarcastically] “I suppose you think I am going to steal the kid’s
lunch money for booze.”
Sexaholic: [laughing] “I am just a guy with a
strong sex drive.”
The treatment for Humor: Practice being in touch
with the pain of the addiction.
Intellectualizing - Using
logic (false logic, that is) to convince oneself and others that
there isn’t a problem. The use of an “accounting system” to
demonstrate that they haven’t done things that would make them an
General: “Look at all the things I can do.” “I
just need to control myself a little more.”
Alcoholic: “If I were an alcoholic, I would be
so responsible at work.” “So no one can ever get drunk
without being an alcoholic.”
Sexaholic: “A lot of people are having more sex
than we have.” “mental health professionals say that
masturbation is normal.”
Gambling: “The state makes money off of the
gambling profession.” “Casinos are everywhere.” “There can’t be
that many people have that much of a problem with it.”
Treatment for Intellectualizing: Ask, “how is my use
Rationalizing - I don’t drink/use every day, I don't
have a problem.
Alcoholic: “I don’t drink everyday. I don’t have a
Sex addict: “I have sexual needs that aren’t getting
Rx addict: “I have pain. I need the medicine.”
Work addict: “I need to work the pay the bills.”
Treatment for Rationalizing: Ask, “how is my use a
Silence - We are quiet and
Treatment for Silence: Create an atmosphere of
safety to discuss the problem.
Compliant - Outwardly
compliant, while inwardly rebellious.
General: “I will stop.”
Alcoholic: “If you really want me to I will
work on not drinking so much.” “I really don’t have a problem,
but I will stop if you want me to.”
Sexaholic: “I am never going to look on the
internet again.” “This is my last affair.”
Treatment for Compliance: Be honest with yourself.
Get in touch with what you really feel.
Minimizing – Agrees, but makes it a smaller problem
than it really is.
Alcoholic: “I don't drink/use half of what Sam
drinks.” “I really don’t drink that much.”
Sex addict: “I really don’t struggle that much with
porn.” “Maybe only once a month.”
Rx addict: “I take less medicine than I used to.”
“I don’t really take that much.” “I am on a patch.” [duragesic
Work addict: “I haven’t worked that much.” [when
they are working long hours and haven’t
Cockiness - I got it made, these other folks are
Alcoholic: “I have been able to stop before. I now
people that are worse.”
Sex addict: “I can stop.” “I am not doing ____.”
[whatever level of behavior is worse than what they are presently]
Work addict: “I can slow down if I need to.” “I
don’t need a group.”
Treatment for Cockiness: Humility.
Justifying - If you had a
wife/husband like mine, you would drink/use too.
Alcoholic: “If you knew my wife, (had my stress
level, work-stress) you would drink too.”
Sex addict: “I have sexual needs that are a normal
and if my spouse isn’t going to help meet them, then I wouldn’t have
Rx addict: “ have pain.” “I need the medicine.”
“My doctor prescribed it to me.”
Work addict: “I need to work the pay the bills”
Explaining - Telling a
story that is not really accurate and uses false logic to explain
why they didn’t do whatever they were supposed to do. No real
remorse, empathy or sorrow is demonstrated.
General: “Well, you see, we were. . .”
Alcoholic: “I was drinking with some friends
and I didn’t want them to think I was being a teetotaler.”
Sexaholic: “Well, I hadn’t had sex in a week,
and. . .”
Gambling: “Well, I drove by the casino. . .”
“I was going to come home at 8pm, when. . .”
Treatment for Explaining: Just stop and listen.
Analyzing - We come up with
excuses, explanations, and defensives that justify our use. This
usually comes in the form of a monologue or filibuster that doesn’t
allow another person’s viewpoint in.
General: “I was depressed, so I ____”
Alcoholic: “My parents were alcoholics, but I
really don’t act like they did.”
Sexaholic: “My emotional needs aren’t met when
we don’t have sex. I get down and find that this is better than
other things I could be doing.”
RX addict: “I had some extra pain. . .” “I had
worked in the yard.” [when in actually, the pain is from stress
and not having the narcotic.”
Defiance - Using verbal
force and stubbornness
General: “You can’t make me stop.”
Alcoholic: “I am not going to stop drinking for
Sexaholic: “I am not going to follow someone
else’s set of morals.”
Drug Addict: “I am not going to treatment.”
“You can’t really make me.”
Withdrawing - We avoid and
leave physically or emotionally. Doesn’t respond to questions.
General: Leaves the room.
Alcoholic: Leaves the room, home, or situation
and sometimes drinks to withdraw.
Sexaholic: Leaves the room, home or situation
by going porn store, internet, etc.
Workaholic: Leaves for work.
Shouting - We raise our
voices to intimidate.
General: Yelling, screaming, and shouting.
Alcoholic: Yelling and arguing. “I am not a
Sexaholic: Arguing, shouting. Name calling.