Threatening, Blaming, Shouting, Defiance (Defense Mechanism Series – Addiction)

a man with his hand in front of his face, covered in smoke to depict defiance regarding quitting substances

Defense Mechanisms

Threatening, Blaming, Shouting, Defiance

This is the next in my series on Defense Mechanisms used in addiction: drug, alcoholism, or behavioral (also known as process) addiction. Defense mechanisms are the behaviors that persons with a SUD use to protect their use by keeping those close to them away. These methods can be passive, aggressive, cooperative, or hostile. What they have in common is the intention to keep the concerned family member or friend from interfering with the the untreated person’s use or drinking.


Here is the series so far:

  1. Denial, lying, silence and withdrawing. 
  2. Humor, compliance and minimizing. 
  3. The aggressive mechanisms: manipulation, accusing, judging, projecting.


Today we’ll continue with defense mechanisms that are aggressive:

  1. Threatening
  2. Blaming
  3. Shouting
  4. Defiance

These aggressive styles are used to create a dramatic diversion from the care and concern of family and friends. They are used by many persons with a SUD, and the ones featured in this post are often used by abusive and controlling personality types as well as adolescents and young adults.


Threatening is the ultimate in stopping productive and meaningful discourse. It is designed to completely shut down the other person. It’s easy to identify and difficult to respond to without getting more threats in response. In response, the family member needs to consider simply retreating and getting safe, including emotionally safe. The ultimate threat is to the relationship, as in the examples below:

  • “I will go live with Uncle Joe.”
  • “I’d rather live in my car.”
  • “Go find someone who doesn’t drink.”
  • “Do you need the number for an attorney?”
  • “I’ll find someone else.”

a man shouting with a barbed wire held across his neck to show the intensity of avoiding getting help for substance use disorder


Blaming is a defense mechanism often used by belligerent persons. It is like projection, but with a stronger and more direct edge. Blaming is when the person directly states that the other person is the reason the person with the substance use disorder must use.

  • “You spend too much money.”
  • “You won’t put out.”
  • “I hate being home. The house is a mess, the kids are loud, dinner is never ready.”



The defense mechanism Shouting needs little explanation. It’s used to create a threatening and hostile atmosphere in which others retreat and hopefully go away so the untreated person with a substance use disorder can do what they want to do: drink, use, act out. Yelling, screaming, arguing, the forced angry “whisper”, and name calling are all forms of this tactic. Overt acts with property such as slamming doors fall into this category as well.

a picture of a woman screaming to depict the intensity of shouting to avoid looking at a substance use problem


Finally, some persons with a substance use disorder will lapse into pure defiance in which they use words and actions to demonstrate their unwillingness to accept the family member’s suggestions or redirection. They will flatly state their intention to not submit, not listen, not obey, not consider, not comply.


  • “I will never go to AA.”
  • “I will not go to treatment.”
  • “I am not going to stop using.”
  • “I will always use porn.”

a man with his hand in front of his face, covered in smoke to depict defiance regarding quitting substances

Discouragement Warning

I am aware that reading a series on defense mechanisms can be discouraging, especially if you find yourself or your life is identifiable in any of the descriptions. You may feel there is no hope. You may feel that there is nothing you can do. If you are an person with a substance use disorder or problem user, or people have suggested you are, please contact me to begin to evaluate your relationship with drugs, alcohol, or behaviors that get in the way of experiencing the life you want. If you are a family member or friend frustrated or heartbroken by another person’s addiction, it’s true that there is little you can do to “make” that person get well. However, there are habits and behaviors that can be helpful or harmful, and there is significant need to take care of you. I can help you identify these habits and reduce the nonproductive ones and increase the ones that will serve to build a better daily life for you. Please contact me to begin your journey to wellness, not contingent upon your loved one’s decision.





One thought on “Threatening, Blaming, Shouting, Defiance (Defense Mechanism Series – Addiction)”

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