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How Demand Resistance Complicates Addiction Recovery


There are different negative personality traits that can be associated with those who fall into addiction. Most people will have heard of the ‘addictive personality’, but it is also fairly common for this type of individual to exhibit signs of demand resistance. This means that they rebel against being told what to do. The individual may even respond to any demands that are put upon them by doing the complete opposite. Demand resistance is a complex condition, but it needs to be overcome in order for the individual to be able to build a good life in recovery.

What is Demand Resistance?

Demand resistance refers to a situation where people resist all forms of authority. This resistance usually starts at the unconscious level, and the individual will just automatically say no to any demands that are put upon them. This person will not only resist meeting the expectations of other people, but they will also rebel against the demands that they put upon themselves  The individual who is dealing with demand resistance does not like being told what to do no matter what the source.

The Cause of Demand Resistance

Some people will begin to exhibit this behaviour in early childhood. The usual cause is that the child’s parents have unrealistic expectations, and they keep on demanding the impossible. At first the young person will try to comply with their parents wishes, but they eventually reach a crisis point where they realise that this is not possible. In order to cope the child will start to rebel against their parent’s demands, and this becomes a subconscious reaction to all authority figures. The child grows up rebelling against any demands that are put upon them including their own demands. This behaviour becomes so ingrained that the individual does not even realise that they do it.

Signs of Demand Resistance

The most common signs of demand resistance would include:

  • The individual automatically says no to any request made by other people.
  • They become upset when somebody else tells them no.
  • Friends and family will usually view them as difficult and a bit stubborn. As far as other people are concerned, the behaviour will appear to be very selfish.
  • This type of person loves to procrastinate. They will struggle to meet deadlines because they will suddenly find other things that they need to put their attention on.
  • The person who is demand resistance will be argumentative.
  • They will find it difficult to take orders from a boss.
  • This individual only likes to do things on their own terms. If they are in a position where they have to do something they will waste time trying to negotiate to change the task so that they feel they have more control.
  • If they feel they are being forced to participate in a project they may secretly work to sabotage it. This could range from not putting in enough effort to actively doing things to undermine the progress.
  • This individual does not deal well with any type of criticism. They may react by sulking or becoming very angry.
  • They will set themselves personal goals but fail to achieve these.
  • They can appear lazy and uncooperative in work. This may mean that they fail to progress in their career.

Dangers of Demand Resistance in Recovery

Demand resistance can be very dangerous for people who are trying to escape and addiction because:

  • It may have been this behaviour that drove the individual into addiction in the first place. It will have led to them feeling alienated and this can be a good excuse to turn to substance abuse. The person may have initially viewed alcohol and drugs as a means to rebel against authority.
  • If people are demand resistant in recovery, it can prevent them from making progress. This is because they will need to put demands on themselves in order to make progress. If they sabotage their own efforts to get better, they are likely to relapse or develop dry drunk syndrome.
  • It is important that the individual is able to develop strong relationships in recovery. They will rely on other people for support and assistance. If the individual is demand resistant they can start to drive other people away, and they will struggle to make new friends.
  • In order for people to make progress in sobriety it is extremely helpful to learn from those more experienced individuals who have already made this journey. If the individual refuses to learn from those who are in advanced sobriety, they will be making things much harder for themselves.
  • If things are not going the way this person wants them to go they may rebel by relapsing back to their addiction.

How to Overcome Demand Resistance

Demand resistance can prevent people from recovering from an addiction so it is vital that it is overcome. This habit of rebelling against authority was learnt, and this means that it can also be un-learned. Here are a few suggestions for how the individual might do this:

  • The person needs to deliberately start saying yes to things. The urge to automatically say no will keep arising initially, but the more the person says yes the easier it will become.
  • The individual needs to be aware of their tendency to resist demands. That way, they will be able to prevent it from ruling their life. Practices such as mindfulness meditation can be helpful because it gives the individual a great insight into their own behaviour.
  • Keeping a daily journal can be beneficial if the individual takes an honest look at their behaviour each day. This will give them the opportunity to spot the signs of demand resistance and to track their progress at overcoming it.

The individual should deliberately try to comply with the wishes of other people. This means that they give up trying to get their own way all the time.

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