Addictive Thinking Patterns
Addictive Thinking Patterns
Addiction has a specific thinking style that enables the addict to continue using substances despite negative consequences. The Journal of Neuroscience reported findings that suggested there may be a cognitive difference in people with addictions and that their brains may not fully process long-term consequences. Researchers also indicated that alcoholics and addicts show more impulsivity in the brain, a characteristic demonstrated in neural activity. Impulsivity and the inability to process long-term consequences lead to distrust in relationships and isolation, both of which continue the cycle of addiction.
Pleasure and Pain
Pleasure and pain are the two basic factors motivating behaviors. The limbic and autonomic nervous systems are involved in the body’s perception of pleasure and pain and both systems receive signals from different stimuli. The limbic system houses the hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulating thirst, hunger and response levels to pleasure, sexual satisfaction, aggression and anger. The autonomic nervous system houses our emotional capacity and “fight or flight” responses. The combination of these system responses elicit feelings based upon the type of behavior experienced or substance that is ingested. Pleasure effects influence continued substance abuse or pleasurable behavior. Pain effects cease the behavior or substance use, except in rare cases where the opposite is true.
Pleasure immediately creates a correlation between the behavior and associated feeling. For example, even going to obtain a pleasure-inducing substance sends signals to the brain that it is about to receive pleasure. This craving will inevitably have an influence on the addicts’ thought process. Obsessive thoughts will increase and be accompanied by uncomfortable feelings. In turn, the addict will feel a need to follow through with the obsessive thoughts in order to have relief.
Obsessive thoughts can be extremely distressing for an addict, especially if he or she is attempting to stop drug or alcohol addiction.
Patterns of Addictive Thinking
Chemical changes in the brain influence thoughts about obtaining and using substances to create a desired effect of euphoria. These physical and psychological cravings will produce thought patterns which are common to all addicts’ personality features.
Some addictive thought patterns are:
- Impulsivity with difficulty delaying gratification
- Prioritizing seeking pleasure
- Feeling unique, translating into non-conformity
- Weakened sense of societal goals
- High stress level
- Fear of exposure
- Victimized mentality, blaming everyone else for negative feelings and consequences
These patterns of addictive thinking are sustained by three underlying mechanisms which are denial, self-obsession and irrational decision making:
- Denial – Unknowing disbelief about one’s reality.
- Self-Obsession – Being preoccupied solely with one’s own thoughts and feelings.
- Irrational Decision Making – Making decisions that are utterly illogical or not in accordance with reason.
Many times, addicts violate others’ boundaries, values and morals to obtain drugs and release stress that is produced by the obsession of addiction. Addictive thinking patterns affect work, money and relationships.
Harmful Consequences of Addictive Thinking Patterns – Distrust, Isolation and Addiction
Addictive thinking produces unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact relationships. Non-addicts begin to question the addict’s motives and thought processes behind decision making. Distrust of the addict develops based upon behavioral history. The main focus for an addict is substance use and he or she will often choose drugs and/or alcohol over family. This unhealthy pattern will breed isolation and as family and friends begin to recognize patterns, they will distance themselves to avoid being hurt.
The addict becomes alienated as a result of addiction and addictive thinking patterns. The addict’s addictive thought processes continue to increase arguments with others and push friends and family away because they challenge the addict’s substance abuse and addiction behaviors. This increases the addict’s desire to seek and use drugs as a means of escape, which reinforces the isolation pattern.
Addiction is fueled by isolation and distrust from family members, employees, employers and friends. Addiction uses denial to help the addict feel justified in patterns. The more the addict feels that he or she has a right to use drugs and/or alcohol, the stronger the addiction grows.
When addictive thinking is present, the harmful consequences of using drugs and/or alcohol do not outweigh the euphoric effects they produce. Addictive thinking needs to be addressed in a drug rehab center for addiction treatment because these thought patterns are tough to break alone.