Denial is automatic; it is not usually a matter of deliberate lying or willful deception. Most dependent people do not know what is true or false concerning their drinking or drug use and its consequences. They are blinded to the fact that their view of the situation does not conform to reality. The denial system distorts their perception and impairs their judgment so they become self-deluded and incapable of accurate self-awareness.
Denial is progressive. The denial system becomes increasingly more pervasive and entrenched as the illness of chemical dependency progresses. In the very early stages it is minimal, and with encouragement, such people can usually view their problem fairly realistically.
However, by the time a person's illness is sufficiently advanced that the problem appears serious in the eyes of others, an elaborate system of defenses shields him/her from seeing what is really happening.
One common thread runs through the many different stories of denial: people, organizations, governments or whole societies are presented with information that is too disturbing, threatening or anomalous to be fully absorbed or openly acknowledged.