Thought Distortions: An Introduction
Your brain and thoughts can have a big impact on your mental health and recovery. How you perceive yourself, the world, your actions, the people in your life all play a role in how you cope with problems and stress. Thought distortions are common and can hinder your recovery. This article discusses thought distortions and how they impact the addiction recovery process.
What Are Thought Distortions?
Thought distortions refer to a person’s tendencies to inaccurately appraise thoughts, experiences, and emotions. They are a hallmark of addiction and the general impact on people in recovery is threefold: they fuel cravings, lessen the power of sobriety tools like positive self-talk, and interfere with healthy decision making.
Example of Cognitive Distortions
The term “thought distortions” is sometimes referred to as cognitive distortions. In some cases, thought distortions lead a person to believe one thing when in fact another is true. For example, a person with an inability to cope with pain may actually believe that she is experiencing more pain than she really does. A person who expects positive outcomes may fail to consider negative consequences. And a person who cannot tolerate rejection may see herself as entirely likable and devoid of faults.
Types of Cognitive Distortions
There are different types of cognitive distortions that you might experience.
- Negative Self-Talk: Negative self-talk is a type of thought distortion that involves a person saying things about himself that are simultaneously both negative and untrue. For example, if you tell yourself that you’re too ugly to be loved or too incompetent to ever amount to anything, you suffer from negative self-talk.
- Jumping to Conclusions: People with a tendency to jump to conclusions believe they know the answer more than they actually do. They will allow themselves to make instant judgments and assume that people are being unfair toward them when in fact, the truth is that their actions or behavior is not being judged at all.
- Overgeneralization: Overgeneralization is when a person jumps to conclusions about a situation without considering all of the information and instead use only a few examples to prove their point. For example, if a person develops contempt for a friend who is rude to him in conversation and then later perceives the same friend to be rude to everyone, he has engaged in an overgeneralization.
- Negative Labeling: A negative labeling thought distortion involves labeling oneself with words like “loser” or “failure” and then believing that these labels are true. People with a tendency to use this type of thinking believe that they will never amount to anything and they will never be good at anything.
- Automatic Negative Thinking: Automatic negative thinking refers to a person who has a tendency to continually find fault with a situation and everything he does. This is the type of distorted thinking that leads people to feel constantly self-condemned. In response, they develop thoughts and feelings of low self-esteem, shame, hopelessness, depression, and sometimes rage.
- Black and White Thinking: Black and white thinking refers to the tendency to perceive every circumstance as either entirely good or intolerable. For example, if a person experiences a lapse in sobriety for just two days, then he will immediately jump to the conclusion that he can never be honest with himself or others again. They might believe that recovery is not possible, when, in fact, if they were being honest with themselves, they could recognize that everyone has setbacks sometimes.
- Emotional Reasoning: Emotional reasoning is when a person jumps to conclusions based on his feelings and not on anything else. For example, say a person feels lonely and depressed. They conclude that everyone is out to get him in every way. Then, he is engaging in emotional reasoning.
- Hypersensitivity: Hypersensitivity refers to a person who responds inappropriately to criticism or negative feedback. For example, consider a person who suffers from hypersensitivity. He may actually respond with rage or anger even when his feelings are not really hurt. He might believe that people are always trying to criticize or insult him. But, they are actually just trying to offer constructive criticism.
The Impact of Thought Distortions on Addiction and Recovery
Thought distortions can be especially damaging during the initial stages of recovery. Such as when a person is trying to adjust to his newly sober life. There’s a problem with these types of thinking. They lead people toward negative emotions like anger, anxiety, sadness, and depression. And without treatment, they can develop into chronic thought patterns that are harmful to both the individual and her relationships.
Do you struggle with addiction? Are you a loved one of an addict who is trying to get clean? If so, it is important to be aware of your thought patterns. Thought distortions can lessen your ability to cope in healthy ways. They may even prevent you from effectively using strategies that would otherwise help you maintain sobriety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Thought Distortions
Fortunately, there are treatment options available for those who suffer from cognitive distortions. One common solution is cognitive behavioral therapy. Through therapy, a person is able to gain insight into the negative thoughts he experiences. Then, he learns how to cope with them in a healthier way.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy. It works by identifying the factors that are leading to the development of negative beliefs and thoughts. This type of therapy encourages clients to immediately identify their negative thoughts. Then, clients actively work to replace them with more positive reactions. It also helps clients create more realistic expectations of themselves and others in order to restore confidence. CBT is effective because it does not focus on the past. It also encourages positive change rather than dwelling on feelings of guilt and hopelessness.
Thought distortions can be a challenge to overcome. Fortunately, with the right treatment, there is no reason why it has to impact your road to recovery. Contact Southeastern Addiction today to learn more about how we can help.