Delusion is one of the most common defenses used by addiction. It effectively blocks awareness.


In order for addiction to exist and to progress, there must be some mechanism for keeping the addict from seeing or acknowledging reality in an undistorted form. Many addiction counselors call this denial. While that term is useful, we prefer to use delusion.

Consciously aware? There is a danger in using the term denial, which implies a conscious refusal to see the truth. For most addicts, seeing how addiction affects them is almost, by definition, beyond the person’s conscious awareness. If you know you ate a half-gallon of ice cream and lie about it, that is certainly denial in everyday terminology. But if you are unable to see how much you nibble during the day, delusion seems a better description.


An illusionist is a magician who specializes in making your senses fool you. A mirage looks like a lake, and it may reflect other objects that make it appear even more real.

Illusions in addiction can appear so real that you start to believe them. This becomes delusion.

Examples You start to believe that your sweetheart is the answer to all your dreams, and fail to see his or her considerable faults. You continue to think of beer or sweets as harmless, even wholesome and healthy.


Addiction works by turning illusion into delusion. You start to believe you really have no trouble with your eating, drinking, or smoking. When you accuse someone else of eating the ice cream, it may be a manipulative tactic to shift suspicion from yourself. When you begin to believe, or half-believe, that you really didn’t do it, it is delusion.

Dispelling Honesty dispels delusion. Addicts in recovery need to be as honest as possible with others, and be openminded to feedback so they can get more honest with themselves. This inherent inability to see themselves accurately is a primary reason addicts need other addicts to help with their recovery.

Delusion, see also: Acceptance, Beliefs, Body image, Defenses, Half-measures, Honesty, Judgment, Mental aspects, Obsession, Openmindedness, Paradoxes in addiction, Sanity, Steps of AA, Stinking thinking, Unmanageability.

Updated 9 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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