How Does CBT Help You Recognize Unhealthy Thought Patterns?

Is addiction just a habit? The answer to this question is essentially no. Habits, while they may have some negative consequences, do not typically destroy lives or cause recognizable signs like an addiction does. An unhealthy habit, such as a daily stop at the doughnut store on the way to work, may contribute to weight gain and possibly even certain diseases in the long run, but it doesn\’t generally cause a total fixation on doughnuts. Most people would be able to stop a habit such as this rather quickly and without professional help if they had to or really wanted to.

In contrast, an addiction is an all-consuming preoccupation with drugs, gambling, sex, food or what have you to the point of it being the most important thing in the person\’s life. A drug addict will continue to use even in the face of financial, family and social ruin. An addicted person will continue to purchase street drugs knowing full well the next dose could be the fatal one. Do thoughts cause addiction? In themselves, no, thoughts are not enough to cause addiction. However, they can definitely contribute to both the tendency for and the continuation of addictive behavior. This article will cover the following question: How does CBT help you recognize unhealthy thought patterns?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy. It\’s very useful for treating substance abuse by helping the abuser see, understand, cope with and change negative thought patterns. It\’s these patterns that can, at the very least, undermine the individual\’s enjoyment of life and success in social relationships and career satisfaction. Self-destructive thinking is often colloquially referred to in substance abuse treatment as stinkin\’ thinkin\’. This philosophy centers on changing these negative thought patterns through a type of therapy that is called CBT. Although it\’s possible to follow CBT therapy on your own without a therapist, it\’s not recommended until you at least have a good working understanding of the principles of CBT. It\’s also near impossible to identify your own negative thought patterns because it\’s near impossible to really be objective about your own behavior.

CBT refers to thinking errors as cognitive distortions. The therapist guides the patient through a number of these cognitive distortions, helping them identify, avoid and correct these patterns. This is important because cognitive distortions can cause what is called a negative loop. This loop leads to a series of negative thoughts, each reinforced by the other, until it becomes a hopeless cycle of despair, depression and low self-image. Negative loops lead to people being stuck in ruts, not even realizing that they helped to put themselves there with their own negative thinking. Here are some cognitive distortions recognized by CBT therapy:

All or nothing

This is also called black and white thinking. Everything is always one way or another, with nothing in between. The truth is, most of the time, there are many shades of gray, not just black and white. Even worse, people with all or nothing thinking almost always see only the black or the negative part of the issue. For example, someone who scores 85 percent on a test sees only the 15 percent they failed to get right, not the 85 percent they answered correctly. After all, 85 percent is almost an A grade on most cases.

Jumping to conclusions

This is thinking that leads someone to automatically assume that something is true with no evidence to support it. For example, someone is dissatisfied with their apparel while attending a social gathering. They think that because they don\’t like their outfit, no one else does, either. This can lead to negative thoughts not supported by fact, such as, \”everyone here is laughing at my clothes!\” The truth is probably much closer to the idea that no one even noticed the attire or if they did, didn\’t see anything wrong with it.


This is a hybrid term referring to minimalism and maximization in one\’s thinking. People with poor thought patterns tend to downplay the positive and magnify the negative without any facts to support this kind of thinking. People with catastrophization thinking often see others as wonderful and themselves as incompetent. They quickly jump from one small mistake to a catastrophe in their thinking. For example, they will magnify a minor error at work into losing their jobs, being unable to pay their bills, losing their home and total financial ruin when in fact, it was a minor error that anyone could make.

Do you Have Questions?

If you\’re struggling with substance abuse and stinkin\’ thinkin\’, we can help. CBT is widely offered at many substance abuse rehab facilities. Just call us at 833-610-1174, and let us help you find the right one for you.

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