The Powerful Role of Cognitive Thinking Errors in Addiction

This is one of the first lessons that participants in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) learn – that facts are not opinions. As obvious as this seems, it can be difficult to remember and adhere to this fact in your day to day life. Attempting to recognize and challenge our cognitive distortions can be difficult, but know that we aren’t alone in this experience. Shedding a gentle awareness onto our thoughts can be a great first step. Emotional reasoning refers to the acceptance of one’s emotions as fact. Of course, we know it isn’t reasonable to take our feelings as fact, but it is a common distortion nonetheless.

thinking errors in addiction

Practicing the new healthy thought patterns learned through CBT can lead to improved actions. By replacing distorted thoughts with rational thinking, you are empowered with the ability to separate your thoughts from reflexive substance abuse. It takes time for the new thought patterns to become new habits, but when it happens, it can be an important coping skill used in addiction recovery. How do individuals in addiction recovery reshape their thoughts from irrational distortions to positive, self-affirming thoughts?

“Should” Statements

However, the two most famous approaches go to psychologist Aaron Beck and Dr. David Burns, who helped popularize these negative thinking patterns giving more examples and easy-to-remember names. One of the most effective forms of psychotherapy for treating addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy. Even if you are not struggling with depression, anxiety, or another serious mental health issue, it doesn’t hurt to evaluate your own thoughts every now and then. The sooner you catch a cognitive distortion and mount a defense against it, the less likely it is to make a negative impact on your life. These distortions in our thinking are often subtle, and it is challenging to recognize them when they are a regular feature of our day-to-day thoughts.

thinking errors in addiction

Of Development for Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, a position she held for 10 years after serving as Development Director for Nashville Read. Before her many years in fundraising, Cindy was the Manager of Premium Services for American Airlines. Dr. Sledge has been named Nashville’s top addiction doctor by the Nashville Business Journal, a recognition only five percent of physicians in the United States hold. Dr. Sledge served on the board of directors for the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and was among the first physicians to receive certification from them. Randal received master’s degrees in counseling from Trevecca Nazarene University and in psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Common Thinking Errors in Recovery and How to Challenge Them

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. This “Jumping to Conclusions” distortion manifests as the inaccurate belief that we know what another person is thinking. Of course, it is possible to have an idea of what other people are thinking, but this distortion refers to the negative interpretations that we jump to. This is an especially malignant distortion since it can facilitate the continuation of negative thought patterns even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary.

thinking errors in addiction

Through this treatment, patients can identify negative thinking patterns and distorted thoughts. The approach also focuses on assisting patients in shifting or reframing thoughts to be more rational and positive. Our experience has allowed us to come up with several ways to overcome cognitive distortions in recovery. While research has found that this distortion is common in people who have anxiety and depression, it is actually a very common way of thinking that many people engage in. Cognitive behavior therapy can help people recognize the signs of emotional reasoning and realize that feelings are not facts. Most of my clients have some cognitive distortions or thinking errors around themselves and their addiction.

How to Fix Thought Distortions

While understanding patterns can be an important part of progressing in recovery, assigning importance to a fluke or small grouping of events as though they apply to everything in your life can be damaging. 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. Click here to contact Angie with appointment requests, questions, or feedback. Listed below are 15 common thinking distortions which were created based on the theory that psychiatrist Aaron Beck put forth and that David Burns popularized by labeling each one.

For example, thinking, “Alcohol might be causing problems at work, but they aren’t that bad” may keep you from seeking treatment. Thinking, “I still want to drink alcohol, but I’m fine” may lead to needing more help in future. Obsessive should statements can keep you from making changes or feeling satisfied with your progress. Thoughts like, “I should be sober by now” can actually keep you from seeking alcohol addiction help out of shame.

All-or-Nothing Thinking in Addiction

Here are four tips that can help to expose the thought errors, and help you start overcoming them. In other words, the danger of being in an unreliable or impaired state of control are the bad decisions you might make. And such decisions may lead to long-term patterns of addiction and substance abuse. 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.

I often hear family members say addicts are addicted to drama and chaos, and there’s some truth to that- because for my brain to wake up and fire, it has to be more dramatic. Here’s an example- when a non-addicted person sees a kitten, their brain fires all these wonderful signals and you get butterflies and feel all warm and fuzzy and think, “omg, that kitten is soooo cute”! And I look at the kitten thinking yeah, whatever, it’s a kitten, their cute. Telling the Future (also known as Fortune Telling) is where you anticipate situations will turn out badly and convinced that your prediction is accurate. By predicting a negative outcome subconsciously you’ll find ways to make that outcome happen therefore proving that your predictions are accurate.