How to Support a Friend Who Doesn't Want Help With Their Addiction


Supporting Friends and Family Who Are Resistant to Addiction Treatment

If you express concern to a friend who’s experiencing mental health issues or addiction, your hopes are they’ll open up and talk to you about whatever it is they are facing and if they’re dealing with a serious problem, such as a mental illness or other health issues, they will agree to seek some sort of treatment. But what if your friend refuses to talk or is resistant to accept your help? How do you help someone who isn’t willing to help themselves?

Why Is My Friend Resisting Help?

Don’t be offended if your friend resists getting help. This does not reflect on you, or your friendship with them. Your friend may not be open about their struggles with addiction or ready to seek out the care they need and there are many reasons for this and may sound like:

  • “I’m not sure what to tell you.” It could be that your friend is having trouble talking to you about their feelings. It might feel uncomfortable or frustrating to talk about what they’re going through because they don’t know how to express it in words. Try showing them you can relate by sharing things you might struggle with in order to create a space that feels safe for transparency.
  • “I don’t have an addiction.” Your friend may be in denial if they get defensive or angry when your concerns are brought up. People who are suffering from addiction, emotional disorders or other mental illnesses, such as depression, may have this reaction. They often go through stages when they come to terms with the fact that something such as an addiction or mental illness is affecting their lives. You should look out for signs that you are becoming more open to the possibility of a problem. If this happens, it may be time for you to start having more conversations with the people closest to you, and care most about your well being.
  • “I can handle this on my own. It’s possible that your friend feels like they can handle the problem without any help from friends or family. It’s also likely that they might feel ashamed of their struggles or consider asking someone for help as a sign of weakness. However, it’s possible for you to validate their desire to manage things themselves and remind them how strong it takes to accept help. Encouragement goes a long way.
  • “I’m okay, it’s not that bad.” In many cases of mental illness, your friend may not want to feel like a burden to other friends or family members, especially if they are dealing with similar challenges to their own. To make it seem better for others, they may try to downplay their struggles.  
  • “I don’t think you’ll understand.” Your friend may very well be thinking that no one could possibly understand or care about their struggles, even if they were to be vocal about what they are going through.
  • “I’m just having a bad day.” Your friend may assure you that they’re just having a bad day and that it’s not something you need to worry about. They might keep you at a distance or make attempts to change the subject to avoid talking about their struggle.
  • “Therapy is a waste of time and money.” Your friend may be skeptical about mental health professionals, or have negative views on therapy and that is their decision, but it may be a good idea to speak positively regarding what therapy can offer them, and the potential changes it could bring into their life.
  • “There’s no point in seeking help.” Your friend may become irritable, apathetic, or shut down when you try talking to them about what they’re going through. This could be a sign they have a mental illness such as persistent depression or suicidal thoughts. Remind them that you are there to support them and willing to talk to them when they are ready, on their own terms.
How can I continue to support a friend who doesn’t want help?

There are many reasons why a friend might not want to talk or stop trying to get help. However, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t accept their reasons and continue trying. If a friend fails to address their addiction or mental illness they may face serious consequences such as failing classes, being fired, abusing substances, and harming their relationships with loved ones.

Keep checking in, and have fun too

Don’ t be discouraged if your friend dismisses your first attempt at bringing up your concerns. You should keep checking in with them, but it’s important to be supportive and not judgmental throughout.

It’s important that you and your friend make the effort to have fun and to keep in touch with each other if your outreach succeeds. This is especially important if you’ve had intense or serious conversations recently. Talking about only what isn’t working can lead to negative feelings and reinforce old habits. Sometimes it can be difficult to repeatedly engage in meaningful conversations, especially when they revolve around the same issues someone may be struggling with. It’s important to make time for relaxation and fun together, and find a way to help them escape the negativity that may be surrounding them. Your friendship will in turn become more healthy if you have the opportunity to spend unburdened times with one another.

How to get others involved

If they don’t respond to your concerns after you have tried repeatedly, it might be time to seek out support from someone you trust when times are hard, such as a parent or coach, a school counselor or a manager at work. In no way does this mean that you’re a failure or a bad friend for asking someone you trust to assist you in helping someone who needs it.

But be aware that it’s possible to upset your friend by getting someone else involved. It’s normal for them to feel this way, but it still doesn’t make it wrong to ask someone to help you help them. Research shows that those who refuse to seek help for issues such as eating disorders, self harm, and substance abuse often get angry when friends ask their family or friends to join the fray and sometimes friendships do in fact end, in these situations.

How to help yourself while helping your friend

It’s okay for you to reach out for help if you feel overwhelmed by the pressure of helping a friend in need.

  • Learn how to support a friend and how to take care of yourself.  
  • Reach out to your support network. Talk to a friend or family member.  
  • Talk to your therapist or counselor about what you’re feeling
  • Safety is paramount. It is important that you tell someone you trust if your friend acts angrily or violently. If you believe your friend is in imminent danger of harming himself or others, immediately call 9-1-1. 


Contact us today for more information on how you can be there for your friends and family when they are resistant to help with their addiction. If they are open to seeking treatment options for their addiction we are here to help guide them through their journey to recovery and healthy living.