Unlike some other defense mechanisms postulated by psychoanalytic theory (for instance, repression), the general existence of denial is fairly easy to verify, even for non-specialists. However, denial is one of the most controversial defense mechanisms, since it can be easily used to create unfalsifiable theories: anything the subject says or does that appears to disprove the interpreter’s theory is explained, not as evidence that the interpreter’s theory is wrong, but as the subject’s being “in denial”. However, researchers note that in some cases of corroborated child sexual abuse, the victims sometimes make a series of partial confessions and recantations as they struggle with their own denial and the denial of abusers or family members. Use of denial theory in a legal setting, therefore, is carefully regulated and experts’ credentials verified. “Formulaic guilt” simply by “being a denier” has been castigated by English judges and academics. The main objection is that denial theory is founded on the premise that that which the supposed denier is denying is truth. This usurps the judge (and jury) as triers of fact.
What makes denial denial and not just a refusal to admit to or accept a truth or fact rests in the degree of an individual’s awareness of the existence of the truth or fact. In denial, an individual does not see or is mostly unconscious of existence of the truth or fact. The choice to refuse reality, then, is unconscious as well. Refusal to admit to or accept a truth or fact differs from denial in that the individual recognizes or is conscious of the existence of the truth or fact but consciously refuses to accept it as such.