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 their brains may not fully process long-term consequences. Research also indicated that alcoholics and addicts show more impulsivity in the brain, demonstrated by neural activity. We learn in alcohol and drug rehab centers that impulsivity and the inability to process long-term consequences, found in addictive thinking patterns, lead to distrust in relationships and isolation, which continue the cycle of addiction.
Pleasure and Pain
Pleasure and pain are the two main factors involved in motivation for behaviors. Both the limbic and autonomic nervous systems receive signals from different stimuli. The limbic system houses the hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulating thirst, hunger, response levels to pleasure, sexual satisfaction, aggression and anger. The autonomic nervous system houses our emotional capacity and fight and/or flight responses. The combination of these systems responses will elicit addictive pleasure or pain feelings based on the type of behavior that is experienced or substance that is ingested. Pleasure effects will influence continued substance abuse or pleasurable behavior. Pain effects will cease the behavior or substance used, except in rare cases where the opposite is true.
Pleasure effects will immediately create a correlation between the behavior and feeling. For example, even going to obtain a substance will send signals to the brain that it is about to receive pleasure. This craving will inevitably have an influence on the addict's thinking processes. Obsessive thoughts will increase, accompanied by uncomfortable feelings. The addict will feel that he or she needs to complete the directions of the obsessive thoughts in order to have relief. Addictive obsessive thoughts can be extremely distressing for an addict, especially if he or she is attempting to stop drug and/or alcohol addiction.
Patterns of Addictive Thinking
The chemical changes in the brain influence thoughts about obtaining and using substances to create the desired effect of euphoria. These physical and psychological cravings will produce thought patterns which are common to many addict personalities.
Some addictive thought patterns are:
- Impulsivity with difficulty delaying gratification
- Pleasure seeking is a priority
- Feeling unique, translating into non-conformity
- Weakened sense of societal goals
- Selective effort in activities chosen
- Fear of exposure
- Victim 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 - The unknowing disbelief about one's reality.
- Self-Obsession - The state of being preoccupied solely with one's own thoughts and feelings.
- Irrational Decision Making - The condition of making decisions that are not in accordance with reason and utterly illogical.
Many times, addicts will violate others' boundaries, values and morals to obtain drugs and release stress 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 will 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 abuse as he or she will often choose drugs and/or alcohol over family. This unhealthy pattern will breed isolation because 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 process continues to increase arguments with others and push friends and family away because they challenge the addict's substance abuse and its associated behaviors. This increases the addict's desire to seek and use drugs as a means of escape, reinforcing the isolation.
Addiction is fueled by isolation and distrust from family members, employees, employers and friends. Addiction uses denial to help the addict feel justified in substance abuse and addiction 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 produced. Addictive thinking needs to be addressed in a drug rehab center for addiction treatment as these thought patterns can still be present even after addiction treatment.