Focus: Addiction: Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery PMC

Many report that it soon becomes second-nature to them to notice automatic thoughts and to ask themselves “What is the evidence for believing that this thought is true? Helping clients to think in a more balanced fashion is a core component of traditional cognitive therapy. Clinicians may need to move clients through a number of stages in order to effectively help them to overcome unhelpful and habitual cognitive biases. For a speed advantage it may be helpful to think categorically “Is the threat present or not? According to this account jumping to conclusions is typical of a ‘better safe than sorry’ mode of thinking. This bias is likely to occur in pressurized situations when emotions are running hot or where time is of the essence. Her parents were neglectful, she was abused by a relative, and she was bullied throughout her school career.

  • Thinking traps are difficult to overcome; changing the way we think may be challenging, but it is possible.
  • They occur when the person has a window in which they feel they will not get caught.
  • In fact, our thoughts can actually betray us more often that we’d like to admit.
  • One of the challenges of therapy is to help clients practice telling the truth and practice admitting when they have misspoken and quickly correcting it.
  • After entering recovery, many addicts find that they must identify thinking errors and challenge their old way of thinking to create new healthy ways of thinking.

These skills include learning to properly identify emotions, increasing positive emotional events, and reducing vulnerability to the effects of emotions and feelings. Black and white thinking, or polarized thinking, is one of the most common thinking errors, individuals with black and white thinking have an all-or-nothing perspective. For example, black and white thinkers might believe that they’ll “never get sober” or that a relapse is always imminent. Cognitive distortions can become a focal point for some individuals, leading to unhealthy coping mechanisms like obsession, depression, anxiety, and even substance abuse.

Change Your Thoughts to Change Your Life

For those in addiction recovery, addressing these distortions may be a matter of life or death. Various theories point to the origins of cognitive distortions. 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. Thinking errors are faulty patterns of thinking that are self-defeating. They occur when the things you are thinking do not match up with reality. Those who commit thinking errors often don’t realize they are doing so. After entering recovery, many addicts find that they must identify thinking errors and challenge their old way of thinking to create new healthy ways of thinking.

lead to relapse

You’re not waking up hungover, your head isn’t foggy, you’re not worried about withdrawal, you’ve probably made some new friends and some healthy lifestyle changes, and so on. A lot of people admit they have a problem but resist getting help. It’s understandable that you want to try to maintain control over your life but if you have a substance use disorder, then, by definition, you don’t have control over your substance use. Mistakes are inevitable in recovery; the important thing is whether you can learn from them and move on. The following are some common mistakes people make in addiction recovery.

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He connected these distorted thinking patterns with his patients’ symptoms and hypothesized that changing their thinking could change their symptoms. These two psychologists literally wrote the book on depression, cognitive distortions, and the treatment of these problems.

Ever thought you did awful at a job interview or school presentation but ended up passing with flying colors? When we are depressed or anxious, the swirling around us threaten to consume us.

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You just need to check your reasoning, motivation, effect, consequence, honesty and truthfulness. We have all fallen victim to one of these distortions at some point. Having recently left a traumatic place, I’m only just learning to be conscious of my negative thoughts. Interesting that this is all based on literature that is decades old. I think it’s really sad and pitiful that the onus of “distorted” thinking falls on the individual.

What are the most common cognitive distortions?

  • filtering.
  • polarization.
  • overgeneralization.
  • discounting the positive.
  • jumping to conclusions.
  • catastrophizing.
  • personalization.
  • control fallacies.

This type of thinking also causes a person to blame himself or herself for external circumstances outside the person’s control. A person with this dichotomous thinking pattern typically sees things in terms of either/or. Something is either good or bad, right or wrong, all or nothing. Black-and-white thinking fails to acknowledge that there are almost always several shades of gray that exist between black and white. By seeing only two possible sides or outcomes to something, a person ignores the middle—and possibly more reasonable—ground. Many treatment programs utilize a 12-Step approach, and many of those recovering choose to attend meetings after they complete their treatment.


Interested in learning more about the impact of your thoughts on your mood and behaviors? You’re taking the steps and making progress, but you crave more. You want answers about why habits have formed in your life and how you can take steps to ensure they don’t take hold again. Expecting something, then feeling resentment when you don’t get it. Even though many thought patterns are automatic, you can change the way you think3. Mental filtering involves focusing on the aspect of an event or behavior that proves a belief you already have.

They occur when the person has a window in which they feel they will not get caught. Part of relapse prevention involves rehearsing these situations and developing healthy exit strategies.

If you believe you can’t overcome addiction, then chances are you won’t succeed. Be mindful of your mindset in order to change your filtration process. Addiction recovery is a lifelong journey with many ups and downs. Make sure you’re taking the time you need to work on your mental health to help you have the best odds at long-term sobriety and healthy life. This happens when someone gives full attribution to their emotions. For example, “If I feel that way, it must be true.” Feelings are powerful and can overrule our rational thinking and reasoning. When someone engages in emotional reasoning, they assume unhealthy emotions reflect the way things are.

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Posted: Sat, 04 Feb 2023 08:00:00 GMT [source]

Write down this new and improved rule and consider how you can put it into practice in your daily life. Cognitive distortions include assumptions and rules that we hold dearly or have decided we must live by. Sometimes these rules or assumptions help us to stick to our values or our moral code, but often they can limit and frustrate us. Beck, Burns, and other researchers in this area have developed numerous ways to identify, challenge, minimize, or erase these distortions from our thinking. This sneaky distortion takes one instance or example and generalizes it to an overall pattern. For example, a student may receive a C on one test and conclude that she is stupid and a failure.

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