How Negative Thinking Patterns are Linked to Addiction
Almost everyone struggles with negative thinking patterns. These thoughts can range from low self-esteem to assuming the worst about a meeting with the boss. For addicts and alcoholics, negative thinking patterns can be especially dangerous. These thoughts can increase anxiety and depression, fuel unhealthy behaviors, and even lead to relapse.
An example of this is the thought process many experiences before they pick up a drink or a drug. It may start small, like the idea that the day ahead is overwhelming. Thus, creating anxiety, leading to isolation, and feelings of defeat. Also, the idea that one might as well have a drink to cope. Thus, challenging and changing negative thinking patterns is one of the essential parts of recovery. Luckily, there are some proven ways to do it!
Examples of Negative Thinking Patterns
Another term for negative thinking patterns is “cognitive distortions.” These are ways of thinking and perspectives that aren’t rational or helpful, but that everyone faces at some point in their lives.
Mind-reading: This is the idea that you can assume what someone else is thinking. For example, you might believe that your coworker thinks you’re lazy because you had to leave early for a dentist appointment when, in reality, you have no reason to believe that.
Discounting the positive: Maybe you had a great day, but on the way home from work, you hit a red light and get stuck in traffic. If you suddenly think that you are having the worst day and can’t find any bright moments, you may be experiencing this.
Catastrophizing: This is another way of saying, “assuming the worst.” An example would be thinking that your partner wants to break up with you because they haven’t answered a text message, and thinking that you’ll end up alone.
Personalizing: Let’s say you’re with a friend who is having a hard day. Personalizing would be assuming that they are in a sour mood because you’ve been a bad or unsupportive friend.
These are just a few examples of cognitive distortions. While these distortions can sometimes cause nothing more than a low mood, they can also convince an addict or alcoholic that a drink or a drug will solve the problem.
How CBT Can Help
In the 1960s, psychiatrist Aaron Beck developed cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. Generally, this form of treatment helps patients identify negative thinking patterns and distorted thoughts. The approach also focuses on assisting patients to shift or reframe thoughts to be more rational and positive. CBT has additionally been proven effective for people who struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, and unhealthy behaviors. In CBT, patients learn to challenge their beliefs.
Some of the approaches and benefits of CBT include:
Reframing: Patients learn to balance negative thoughts into more positive ones. For example, someone might replace “I am incapable of doing this work” with “I am struggling, but I can ask for help to improve.”
Thought records and journaling: Patients also track their thoughts to identify triggers for anxiety or unhealthy behaviors, then work with their therapist to cope with these triggers.
Behavioral activation: Patients additionally practice new behavioral habits to shift their mood, which can gradually change thought patterns to be more positive.
Core belief work: Patients identify their core beliefs, or ways of looking at the world, to develop insight into their patterns. Additionally, addressing negative core beliefs can reduce depression and anxiety.
CBT and Addiction
CBT is useful for treating addiction because it helps patients learn how to change negative thinking and how not to be negative. The core theory of CBT is that thoughts create feelings, and feelings create behaviors. By replacing negative thoughts, we can increase positive feelings and actions. For example, someone might experience the impression that they are incapable of sobriety. As a result, this may lead to depression, anxiety, and isolation. Generally, isolation can lead to relapse. Thus, by challenging the negative thought, the individual can reduce the risk of relapse.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we offer CBT and many other evidence-based, proven therapies for treating addiction. So if you struggle with negative thinking patterns that hold you back from recovering make a change. Please call today to speak with an experienced, compassionate staff member who can help you get started.