How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Helps People with Addiction

Addiction has become an epidemic, both in the United States as well as globally. Although substance abuse has been a cultural concern for centuries, the past several decades have seen an exponential growth in the development of chemical dependencies. However, mind-altering substances like alcohol and drugs aren’t the only things to which a person can become addicted. In fact, there are a number of behavioral addictions that can have just as much of a destructive influence on one’s life as alcoholism or drug addiction. Unfortunately, these behavioral addictions are widely misunderstood.

Until recently, the concept of behavioral addiction was somewhat controversial. After all, behaviors like exercise, eating food, and sex don’t make a person intoxicated like alcohol or drugs. We’ve since come to better understanding behavioral addiction, which has also allowed us to treat individuals who suffer from behavioral addictions more effectively. One form of therapy that has proven to be particularly helpful in the treatment of behavioral disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy. A well-known and widely used form of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented modality that is focused on the relationship that one’s thoughts, feelings, and attitudes have on one’s behaviors. As such, the following will serve as a concise discussion concerning how cognitive behavioral therapy helps individuals to overcoming behavioral addictions.

What is the Purpose of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

woman consoling client in CBT therapy

As human beings, we are prone to falling into habits and routines. This is usually a good thing as routine tends to be comforting while unpredictability or chaos cause mental and emotional distress. However, individuals can just as easily fall into harmful or self-destructive habits, which can range in severity from things that are simply frowned upon like biting one’s nails to a range of behavioral or chemical addictions. When someone has developed such bad habits, he or she often requires counseling and therapy to overcome them. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used in such instances as it’s goal-oriented and looks into some of the underlying causes or motivations for an individual’s behaviors. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapists attempt to identify how an individual’s undesirable behaviors are caused by their cognition’s, which refers to their patterns of thought, emotion, attitudes, beliefs, and other mental and emotional processes.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Addictive Behaviors

Behavioral addictions are widely thought to be a form of impulse control disorder, which is a condition that renders individuals unable to control or resist their impulses, urges, and desires. In fact, substance abuse and addiction could also be considered to be issues that pertain to poor impulse control. When an individual suffers from a behavioral addiction, there’s usually some sort of initial thought or feeling — a preliminary cognition — that causes the individual to escalate the behavior. For instance, someone who becomes addicted to exercise might have developed the addiction due to his or her sudden belief that he or she is overweight or physically unfit. Alternately, an individual with food addiction might derive emotional comfort from food and begin associating the consumption of food with the release of stress, which is similar to how an individual will consider an evening cocktail a means of stress release before falling into the throes of alcoholism.

Over the course of cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, the therapist and patient work together to identify the harmful or addictive behaviors that have become problematic in the patient’s life, developing a plan for the individual to implement healthier or more productive alternatives through changes in his or her cognition’s. In particular, the therapist will attempt to identify the cognition’s that have a causal relationship to the addictive behaviors, which can be such things as a distorted perception of one’s body, abnormal reliance on food for comfort, a need to have sexual intercourse with others to feel validated or attractive, and so on. By identifying the problematic cognition’s, the therapist and patient begin enacting the recovery plan.

Recovering from Behavioral Addiction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Studies involving neural scans have actually shown that those who receive cognitive behavioral therapy as a means of overcoming behavioral addictions experience an improvement in overall cognitive functioning. While receiving cognitive behavioral therapy, patients learn to think in new ways. Therapists will often help patients to practice thinking positively or thinking in ways that will allow them to overcome destructive habits. Patients will often receive homework that involves certain behavioral or cognitive exercises that serve to curb the addictive behaviors as well. In a matter of weeks or months, patients receiving cognitive behavioral therapy can learn the cognitive strategies they need to begin overcoming behavioral addiction with progress continuing in longer-term counseling.

Let Recovery Hub Help You Overcome Behavioral or Chemical Dependency

There are many behaviors and substances to which one can become addicted. However, there are a variety of treatments and programs available for those in need. If you or someone you love would benefit from learning more about recovery, call Recovery Hub at 1-888-220-4325. Our recovery specialists are available for free consultations and assessments. To begin the journey from addiction to health and happiness, pick up the phone and call Recovery Hub today.

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