In its full, classical form, denial is an unconscious process. However, there can be a conscious component when the sufferer is simply 'turning a blind eye' to an uncomfortable situation.
Denial is a type of immature defense mechanism. Other important immature defense mechanisms are projection, splitting, rationalization, acting out, passive-aggressiveness, and displacement. Immature psychological defense mechanisms are psychological processes that play an important role in suppressing emotional awareness and increase the risk of various medical conditions, as these patients are more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles and use food and drugs to cope with external stressors.
In its most basic form denial is the avoidance of the awareness of some painful reality. This can have negative consequences as patients don't acknowledge reality and real issues they might be having.
Denial is common in alcoholics and people addicted to various substances; these patients deny that they have a problem, refusing to acknowledge the reality; this can result in drunk-driving (the patient refuses to acknowledge that he is drunk and wants to drive).
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