Thinking Like an Addict

Jul 28, 2014

Addiction is a disease of the mind, and it affects the way a person processes information and approaches problems. Understanding addictive patterns of thinking is an important part of addiction recovery, both for the addict, and for those supporting them. Recognizing these thought patterns, knowing how to manage them, and learning how to work around them to promote healing are all key parts of the process.


Pleasure Seeking and Stress Relief


The euphoric high associated with drug use lights up the pleasure centers of the brain, immediately tagging the activity as one that should be repeated. The sensation of pleasure that comes from drug use is a chemical reaction that the brain becomes dependent on over time. This isn’t a mild sensation that can be overcome with willpower, it is a strong impulse that the brain demands to have satisfied.


Those who haven’t suffered from addiction themselves sometimes think of the pleasure seeking mania of addiction as stemming from boredom, or a lack of self control, but it’s much more than that. Addictive thought patterns put pleasure seeking as the primary function for the addict. The brain crowds out all other thought processes until this craving is satisfied, making it impossible for the addict to ignore. Stress and pressure continue to build as the brain calls out for relief, which the addict only knows how to find in continued drug use.


Problems With Cause and Effect


In the cloudy cycle of pleasure seeking and euphoria, it becomes difficult for addicts to recognize the consequences of their actions, and even more difficult for them to foresee future consequences. The idea of cause and effect becomes completely lost in the shuffle. Those closest to an addict will see that they act impulsively, stumbling through their day to day life without any sense of direction.


Trouble with impulse control is a major part of addictive thinking patterns. The addict feels such a sense of urgency over obtaining and using drugs, that it’s difficult for them to place importance on anything else. As their focus shifts solely toward using, their understanding of the consequences of their actions diminishes.


A Cycle of Isolation


The destructive behavior that results from a life lived without regard to consequences causes even those who love an addict the most to pull away from them. This is an act of self preservation, but it leaves the addict isolated and alone. Adding to this sense of isolation are other addictive though patterns. The fear that the full range of their addiction will be exposed keeps the addict from reaching out to others. A weakened sense of societal norms and expectations makes them uncomfortable in a crowd, and unable to behave rationally in these types of situations.


As the addict becomes more and more isolated in their disease, they become even more disconnected from the cause and effect of their own actions, and sink further into their disease. The way to break the cycle of addictive thought patterns is through intensive addiction therapy, where the addict can begin to form new thought patterns and recognize problem thinking. Because addiction also affects the entire support system surrounding an addict, family counseling is usually needed for comprehensive healing to take place.

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