This page will look at the myriad of cognitive distortions and perservative (and deluded) thinking that appears to be part of the condition of many different addictive behaviours.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Ego Defense Mechanisms
So far in this blog we have looked at how altered stress systems effect emotion processing and regulation and how this results in the increasingly compulsive need to use substances and behaviours to regulate subsequent negative emotions and affect.
Now we will be looking at the third strata of this disorder of addictive behaviour, that of distorted perservative thinking. Perseverative thinking is when someone gets an idea or thoughts in their head and just can’t get them out.
It is commonly shared in 12 step meeting show we have a problem with our thinking and hence our decision making. We find this to be true for us also.
Some addictive behaviours have their own specific cognitive distortions such as with gambling and eating disorders in addition to a more generalized pattern of cognitive distortions associated with all additive behaviours and psychopathology more generally.
Unlike those who feel cognitive distortions cause psychopathology we believe cognitive distortions are the consequence of impaired stress systems and emotion dysregulation which implicate a hyperactive amgydaloid region of the brain.
We feel that persistent negative and distorted thinking is the direct consequence and manifestation of stress and emotion dysregulation. It is how stress and emotion dysregulation manifests in thought processes; these thought processes obviously worsen this stress and emotion dysregulation and vice versa.
In recovery by addressing either stress, negative affect or our distorted thinking we automatically deal with the other factors. Hence distress is at the heart of our addictive behaviour.
If we reduce our distress we reduce stress reactivity, the effect of negative emotions and their manifest distorted thoughts.
Hence addictive behaviour is a three level disorder of stress hyper reactivity, emotion dysregulation and distorted thoughts, all interconnectedly reactive.
In other words, the thinking of addicted individuals seems to be “fear-based” or distress prompted which leaves perception and reaction to it rather it distorted.
Along with these thoughts there is a reciprocal increase in stress chemical reactivity and increasingly impaired emotion regulation and processing of emotions.
Hence these unregulated negative emotions act with heigthened stress reactivity and spiraling distorted thinking to increase relapse vulnerability.
As a result we believe that distorted preservative thinking, thinking that persists and gets increasingly distorted, is a part of the aetiology of addictive behaviour.
Equally we believe it is the consequence of a distress state activated by a hyperactive amgydala which increases stress reactivity, emotion dysregulation and then distorted thinking in a viscous circle.
We believe, based on our own research and experience of recovery that this is vicious circle is a common feature of all addictive behaviours.