How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT Is Used to Treat Addiction

They may become overconfident that they have overcome their addiction. For someone in addiction recovery, these common negative thinking patterns can increase their anxiety, often triggering depression and relapse episodes. While there are countless distortions, we’ll focus on those made famous by Aaron Beck and David Burns. I have a fascinating topic for you today and it was one of my favorite things to learn in my own recovery process. We’re going to talk about common thinking errors – in AA they say stinking thinking – in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy it’s called cognitive errors or cognitive distortions. As we know, everybody is recovering from something- it’s just a part of life, we are exhausted and wounded and usually overwhelmed between jobs, kids, spouses, bills- it’s exhausting.


For the first one, overgeneralizing horizontally, as it were, you will probably find some aspects of recovery harder than others. These are a few new habits to practice in recovery as you learn how to value yourself. Why would you talk about yourself in a way that you would talk about someone you care about?

The 7 Most Common Cognitive Distortions That Lead to Relapse

No one is in complete control of what happens to them, and no one has absolutely no control over their situation. Even in extreme situations where an individual seemingly has no choice in what they do or where they go, they still have a certain amount of control over how they approach their situation mentally. This may be one of the most surprising distortions to many readers, and it is also one of the most important to identify and address. The logic behind this distortion is not surprising to most people; rather, it is the realization that virtually all of us have bought into this distortion at one time or another.

lead to relapse

Gilbert proposes that this distorted form of reasoning is the result of a highly-sensitive ‘deception detection’ system which operates in a ‘better safe than sorry’ manner. In Feeling Good Burns describes jumping to conclusions as the process of “arbitrarily jumping to a negative conclusion that is not justified by the facts”. With the ‘mind reading’ variant we assume that other people are thinking negatively about us.

How Do You Keep Grief from Sinking Your Recovery from Addiction?

For example, people often go on vacation and think they’re on vacation from recovery too, or that having a drink-—just one, of course—would make the occasion perfect. It’s important to pay attention to positive triggers as well as negative ones. What people often forget is that positive emotions can be triggers too. Happy occasions, such as getting married, getting promoted, or having a baby can also be stressful.


Emotional Reasoning—Thinking that a belief is true based on your emotions rather than on facts presented is emotional rather than logical reasoning. Angie Carter, CRADC, SAP is a certified reciprocal alcohol and drug counselor and DOT certified Substance Abuse Professional. She is in private practice at Carter Counseling & Consulting Services. Angie sees local clients in the office and is also available for telephone coaching and/or consultation.

Common Thinking Errors: How to Identify and Replace Them

According to cognitive behavioral therapists, this helps you change how you feel and behave. The growth stage is about developing skills that individuals may have never learned and that predisposed them to addiction . The repair stage of recovery was about catching up, and the growth stage is about moving forward. Clinical experience has shown that this stage usually starts 3 to 5 years after individuals have stopped using drugs or alcohol and is a lifetime path. Still, cognitive distortions sometimes go hand in hand with mental health conditions, such as personality disorders.

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Staying Socially Engaged When You Really Don’t Feel Like It

Negative thoughts may affect some people more severely than others. And individuals struggling with substance abuse are particularly vulnerable to turning negative thinking into distorted thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is highly successful in addiction recovery. Developed by Dr. Aaron Beck, it allows people to see the link between how they think, how they feel and how they behave. In addition, this link is not only part of the reason for the addiction, but it is the way to effectively and positively shift the mindset to leading a healthier, sober and clean life. There are dozens of recognized distorted thinking patterns researchers believe can be harmful in the long-run.

Sometimes you can’t win for losing no matter how hard you try to come up with the right solution. For many, one or more of these cognitive distortions will look familiar. You may fall into one or more of these traps or know someone who does. therapy and mind-body relaxation help break old habits and retrain neural circuits to create new, healthier ways of thinking . If you’re human, you have likely fallen for a few of the numerous cognitive distortions at one time or another. If you believe you might be struggling with negative thinking patterns in your recovery journey, do not hesitate to reach out if you’re reading this. Work with our therapists and counselors to learn the best ways to make a change and start tuning out these unhealthy thinking patterns. Thinking errors are a created habit, that you spend years practicing, and like every other habit we talk about here, it also takes practice to start neutralizing bad habits and change them.

  • Probably the most common misinterpretation of complete honesty is when individuals feel they must be honest about what is wrong with other people.
  • There are several types of thinking errors that play a powerful role in substance abuse and addiction.
  • In other words, cognitive distortions are your mind convincing you to believe negative things about yourself and your world that are not necessarily true.
  • This helps determine the risks that are likely to lead to a relapse.

For instance, a with all-or-nothing thinking sees negativity as the only possible outcome in any situation. 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. CBT has additionally been proven effective for people who struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, and unhealthy behaviors. In this little pleasure center, your brain releases all the natural feel-good neurotransmitters. You hear about serotonin and dopamine- these are all the heavy hitters and they are responsible for all the good and positive feelings we have- happiness, excitement, contentment, relaxation.

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People who over-generalize assume that one instance is an indicator of a larger pattern. If they don’t get a promotion at work, they may jump to the conclusion that nothing “ever” goes their way, or that they “always” mess things up.

What are some examples of distorted thinking?

The main cognitive distortions are as follows (and some of them overlap): Black-and-white (or all-or-nothing) thinking: I never have anything interesting to say. Jumping to conclusions (or mind-reading): The doctor is going to tell me I have cancer. Personalization: Our team lost because of me.

Probably the most common misinterpretation of complete honesty is when individuals feel they must be honest about what is wrong with other people. I like to tell patients that a simple test of complete honesty is that they should feel “uncomfortably honest” when sharing within their recovery circle. This is especially important in self-help groups in which, after a while, individuals sometimes start to go through the motions of participating. This is also the time to deal with any family of origin issues or any past trauma that may have occurred. But they can be stressful issues, and, if tackled too soon, clients may not have the necessary coping skills to handle them, which may lead to relapse. There are many risks to recovery at this stage, including physical cravings, poor self-care, wanting to use just one more time, and struggling with whether one has an addiction.

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