Addiction and Distorted Thinking

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One element of addiction that keeps many people from seeking treatment is the secretive nature of drug and alcohol abuse and the inherent secrecy of a users behavior and emotions.

To help get to the bottom of some basic questions and concerns that many families and loved ones have about addiction, from time to time we like to offer simple bits of information that offer insight into the murky world of addiction and addicted behavior.

In the past we have talked about things like denial and common family roles. Today I will talk more about how an active user not only behaves irrationally, but may even be convincing themselves of false realities.

Distorted Thinking

  • BEING RIGHT: You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness or reality. You listen to others only long enough to come up with your next point or argument.
  • BLAMING: You hold others responsible for your pain, because it is their fault. Or you take the other extreme and blame yourself for every problem or reversal.
  • CATASTROPHIZING: You expect disaster. You notice or hear about a problem and start the what ifs: “What if disaster strikes?” “What if it happens to me?” “What if the worst happens?”
  • CONTROL FALLACIES: The fallacy of external control means you see yourself as a victim of fate or “bad luck,” that you are helpless to change things. The fallacy of internal control means you feel responsible for the pain and happiness of everyone else, that they all depend on you.
  • EMOTIONAL REASONING: You believe that what you feel must be true—automatically. If you feel stupid, you must be stupid. If you feel you’re the worst person, you are the worst person.
  • FALLACY OF CHANGE: You expect other people will change to suit you if you just pressure or cajole them enough. You need to change people because your hopes for happiness, self-worth, etc. seem to depend entirely on them.
  • FALLACY OF FAIRNESS: You are resentful because you think you know what’s fair or “right” and other people won’t agree with you.
  • FILTERING: You take the negative details and magnify them, while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation; you make mountains out of molehills.
  • GLOBAL LABELING: You generalize one or two qualities into a global negative judgment.
  • HEAVEN’S REWARD FALLACY: You expect all of your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone keeps score; you are a martyr. You feel bitter when that reward doesn’t come.
  • MIND READING: Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you are able to decide how people are feeling towards you.
  • OVER GENERALIZING: You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you expect it to happen over and over again.
  • PERSONALIZING: You think that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to figure out who is smarter, better looking, etc.
  • POLARIZED THINKING: Things are black-and-white, good-or-bad, with no in between. You must be perfect or you’re a failure. There is no middle ground. Ambiguity is impossible for you.
  • SHOULDS: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and others should act. You feel angry with people who break the rules, and you feel guilty if you violate the rules.

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