Addict Behavior | Thinking Patterns in Substance Abuse | Lakeview

Addict Behavior – Common Thinking Patterns in Substance Abuse Addiction

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Man discussing common behaviors and thinking patterns in addiction


Published: February 12, 2021

Most Common Addict Behavior

Addict behavior is a specific thinking style that enables someone struggling with addiction to continue using substances despite negative consequences. The Journal of Neuroscience reported findings suggesting there may be a cognitive difference in people who suffer from addiction and that their brains may not fully process long-term consequences. Research also indicates that those suffering from addiction show more impulsivity in the brain demonstrated by neural activity.1 We learn in drug and alcohol rehab that impulsivity and the inability to process long-term consequences, found in thinking patterns of addict behavior lead to distrust in relationships and isolation, which continue the cycle of addiction. Addictive thinking patterns may also be an early warning sign of a potential relapse.2

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 or flight responses. The combination of these systems’ responses will elicit addictive pleasure or pain 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 person with SUD will feel that he or she needs to complete the directions of the obsessive thoughts to have relief. Addictive obsessive thoughts can be extremely distressing for a person with SUD, especially if he or she is attempting to stop drug or alcohol addiction.

Common Patterns of Addict Behavior

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 patterns of addict behavior 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
  • High-stress
  • 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 are 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. Those close to the addict will begin to question their motives and thought processes behind decision making. Distrust of the person with SUD develops based upon behavioral history. This unhealthy pattern will breed isolation because as family and friends begin to recognize patterns, they will distance themselves to avoid being hurt. The person with addiction becomes alienated as a result and their behavior continues to push friends and family away. 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.

Addictive thinking can cause denial, helping 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 or alcohol, the stronger the addiction grows. When addictive thinking is present, the harmful consequences of using drugs or alcohol do not outweigh the euphoric effects produced. Addictive thinking needs to be addressed in a drug rehab center for substance abuse treatment as this behavior and thought patterns can still be present even after addiction treatment. One of the most effective therapeutic tools for changing these thinking patterns is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. CBT helps people to become more aware of their emotions and responses to situations, providing them with the training and tools to cope with difficult situations more effectively.2


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