addiction potential

Role of Early Maladaptive Schemas on Addiction Potential in Youth

The aim of this study (1) was to predict the “Addiction Potential” in youths by their early maladaptive schemas by using the instruments of the Addiction Potential Scale (APS) and Early Maladaptive Schemas SQ-SF .

The results showed that there was positive and significant relationships among early maladaptive schemas particularly between Disconnection/ Rejection, Impaired autonomy / Performance and addiction potential.

“Addiction Potential” is defined as the beliefs and attitudes of people about drugs, and the negative and positive outcomes of using them (2). Tendency is an internal feeling with high probability of shaping some behaviors or simply learning them (3). It was shown that drug users suffer from some early maladaptive schemas which can be the Potential for drugs abuse (4). Schemas are formed from early life and affect people throughout their lifespan (5). Early maladaptive schemas are the kind of beliefs that people have about themselves, others, and the environment which are normally derived from dissatisfaction about basic needs, especially emotional needs in childhood (6).

Young, Klosko and Weishour identified eighteen early maladaptive schemas and they introduced them in five areas as follows: Disconnection/Rejection (abandonment/instability, mistrust/abuse emotional deprivation, defectiveness/shame, social isolation/alienation); Impaired autonomy/Performance (dependence/incompetence, vulnerability to harm or illness, enmeshment/undeveloped self, failure); Impaired Limits: (entitlement/grandiosity, insufficient self-control/self-discipline); Other directedness: (subjugation, self-sacrifice, approval-seeking/recognition-seeking); and Over vigilance/Inhibition (negativity/pessimism, emotional inhibition, unrelenting standards/hypocriticalness and punitiveness) (8). Young believes that maladaptive schemas result in experiencing the negative events in life and these negative events cause irregular psychic pressures in people (9). Then these people, who use maladaptive schemas inordinately, are affected more by negative events (10).

Rake, Boer and De boa argued that “people who use adaptive schemas have more capabilities to cope with mental pressures and when they encounter stressing events, they are less likely to suffer from mental problems and drug abuse (12). Findings showed that maladaptive schemas in drug users are higher than the other people (1315). In another research conducted on alcohol addiction, it was shown that most of the alcoholics have more early maladaptive schemas in comparison with normal people (16).

Also, the results showed that drug users apply Disconnection/Rejection schemas (17). A study showed that people with dependence/incompetence and defectiveness/shame schemas have a tendency to use drugs (18).

In other research, it was indicated that personality troubles and addiction mostly appear as emotional deprivation, dependence/incompetence, entitlement/grandiosity, enmeshment/undeveloped self and failure schemas (19).

According to Young (5), maladaptive behaviors are created in response to schemas and then these behaviors are activated by the same schemas; and when the maladaptive schemas are activated, people experience high levels of (negative) feelings such as severe resentment, anxiety, distress or feeling guilty.


This severity of activating schemas is usually unpleasant, therefore, people almost use maladaptive behaviors such as abusing drugs in order to avoid activation of schemas and of the feeling of excitement associated with these schemas (8).

According to the results of the current study, there is a significantly positive relationship among the five areas of early maladaptive schemas: Disconnection/Rejection, impaired autonomy and performance, Impaired Limits, Other-Directedness and Over vigilance/Inhibition, and the addiction potential. In this context, the schemas Disconnection/Rejection, impaired autonomy and performance, and Other-Directedness had the highest prediction of the addiction potential variances.


Studies have pointed to the correlation between early maladaptive schemas and drug dependence (14, 25), and this supports the preceding results. For example, Ball et al. had assumed that early maladaptive schemas appeared in the area of Disconnection/Rejection especially in the drug abusing group (12).

Findings coincide with many of the previous studies (4, 1317). They indicated that addiction is correlated with early maladaptive schemas. Furthermore, these studies showed that the abundance of the schemas of Disconnection/Rejection area (abandonment/instability, mistrust/abuse, emotional deprivation, defectiveness/shame, social isolation/alienation) is greater than other areas, which is true for the findings of the current study.

The results indicated that maladaptive schemas in Disconnection/Rejection area are the strongest predictors for addiction potential. Similarly, researchers showed that early maladaptive schemas, especially in areas of Disconnection/Rejection schemas, impaired autonomy and performance, and other directions play an important role in the prediction of addiction (1820).

Cognitive schemas in Disconnection/Rejection area show that personal needs are not satisfied with safety, stability, affection, sympathy, sharing feelings, acceptance and respect in predictable styles.


1. Bakhshi Bojed, F., & Nikmanesh, Z. (2013). Role of Early Maladaptive Schemas on Addiction Potential in Youth. International Journal of High Risk Behaviors & Addiction, 2(2), 72–76. doi:10.5812/ijhrba.10148

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