How Minimization and Rationalization Harm Addiction Recovery

July 16, 2020 Amanda Richardson

In my addiction recovery, I have learned a lot about the impacts of self-talk, specifically how minimization and rationalization can sometimes cause harm. Personally, I believe that minimizing and rationalizing unhealthy behaviors can be present in many different types of people, not just recovering addicts. However, in my experience, these two forms of self-talk have undoubtedly impacted my addiction recovery experience.

The Power of Minimizing My Addiction

I lived in a state of denial about my addiction for many years and I think a big part of that denial involved my continual need to minimize the role of specific unhealthy behaviors in my life. Especially in my late teens and early 20s, I consistently denied that I had a problem with sex and pornography and if the thought of getting help ever came up, I would always downplay the extent of my addictive habits.

For some reason I thought it would be easier to live in denial and secrecy, pretending my life-altering problems weren't a problem at all. It wasn't until I began a healthy, committed, monogamous relationship that I finally started to realize the implications of my addictive actions.

Rationalizing Harmful, Addictive Behavior

Perhaps the most detrimental form of self-talk in my active addiction involved continual rationalizations that my addiction wasn't harmful at all. I would rationalize with myself (and sometimes others) that everyone has a lot of sex or watches a lot of pornography. I would argue that these actions implied my "healthy" or "happy" quality of life when, in reality, they were a reflection of my severely unhealthy habits and beliefs. 

Rationalizing often includes pointing the finger at others and their personal transgressions. I was convinced that I wasn't a "real addict" unless I was "worse off" than every other sexually active person in my friend group. As long as there was someone else I could refer to and point blame, I felt completely content with myself.

In reality, I was absolutely desperate to find someone whose habits were more dangerous than mine because this would obviously imply that something was wrong with that person and not me.

Similarly, many alcoholics feel that it is easier to rationalize the "sins" of others by showing off their fun-loving friends who drink just as much, if not more, than them.

I had to learn the hard way that just because someone shares my unhealthy habit does not always imply that he or she has the same addictive tendencies as I do. Not everyone will become an addict, no matter how much sex, alcohol, or drugs they consume in their lifetime. Sadly, for reasons beyond my knowledge or expertise, only some of us are destined to be addicts.

Harmful Self-Talk in My Addiction Recovery

Ultimately, minimalization and rationalization have proven to be harmful self-talk practices in my recovery from my behavioral addictions. I learned that spending so much of my time denying and delaying the inevitable (specifically, my recovery) only further harmed my perception and my beliefs.

If you are set on believing that your addiction isn't real, serious, or as bad as someone else's then you are only taking valuable weeks, months, and years away from what could be spent building healthy habits in recovery.

Do yourself a favor and drop the act. Seek recovery sooner, not later. Love yourself enough to see that you need help. 

I am so happy I finally did.

APA Reference
Richardson, A. (2020, July 16). How Minimization and Rationalization Harm Addiction Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Amanda Richardson

Amanda is a professional health and wellness writer who specializes in creating content tailored to the female audience. She is especially passionate about social injustice, mental health, and addiction recovery.

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