Denial refers to a defense mechanism that involves denying the existence of an external threat, existence of a fact or traumatic event; a defense mechanism involving the inability to recognize or deal with external threatening events; believed to be an early reaction to the diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness.

Individuals may distort or not acknowledge what they think, feel, or see. For example, not believing that a relative has been killed in an auto accident is an illustration of denial. Individuals also disregard negative realities to such a degree that the conditions avoided do not exist in the person's awareness at all. Denial is also one of the first psychological reactions felt the moment a person is informed that he or she has a chronic illness or realizes he or she is dying. Denial is also a term used in industrial and organizational psychology that refers to the first stage in the emotional reaction to change or layoffs, in which an employee denies that an organizational change or layoff will occur.


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