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Psychology of Addiction

Updated on August 26, 2014

Of Addiction and Distorted Thoughts

Addiction results in thought distortions which are thoughts that may contain an element of truth but also contain some instances of misinformation or exaggeration. They include all-or-nothing, black-or-white thinking, and lack of perspective that there may be some truth to the extremes.

This is for instance in a case whereby an alcohol addict goes through rehabilitation for some months but shortly after reverts to the old ways. He carries himself as a failure and has the notion that he can’t succeed in containing himself. Distorted thinking needs to be firmly and lovingly challenged to help the addict restore his thinking to a realistic perspective of himself and the world surrounding.

How Addiction affects the Brain

Addictions also affect structures of the brain involved in learning and memory. They include the amygdala, hippocampus, and the cerebral cortex. The addictions alter the neurological connections in the brain thus negatively affecting learning and memory. When reminders of pleasurable objects are encountered in the field, memories are recalled that lure the addict to crave the substance yet again. It is discouraging and frustrating when an addict learns that their learning and memory has suffered.

A known condition resulting from addiction is the Korsakoff’s syndrome whereby the addict, an alcohol addict, may remember minute details of her past but not remember what they had for breakfast. Cognitive functioning of the brain in thinking, reasoning, remembering, and making decisions is affected by a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Glutamate helps addict’s access pleasurable memories of substance abuse.

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What is Real and What is Not-Blurring the line between them

Psychological effects of drug addiction include wild mood swings, depression, anxiety, paranoia, violence as well as hallucinations. Hallucinations involve perceiving things in the absence of stimulation. That is, perceiving things that are not there. A hallucination can be false or distorted but seem very real, vivid and coherent to the addict. It can involve any of the senses including vision, hearing, smell, touch, taste and movement.

Paranoia is whereby the addict has delusions of being persecuted by others or delusions of their own grandeur. Paranoid thinking starts on gradually developing into a very complex pattern of thought based on misinterpretations of real events. This would in turn make the addict appear insane or mental disorder and can be particularly dangerous for the individual hence the need for proper care.


Addiction and Depression

A depressed addict is unhappy and anxious. The state of depression would prevent him from leading a normal life. They undergo a period of intense psychological pain that includes hopelessness, feeling worthless and loss of pleasure with things that previously were pleasurable.

Each Case is Unique

However severely a person is affected psychologically depends on their mental health before becoming addicted and the ongoing circumstances in their life. For instance, an unemployed, homeless, physically unwell individual’s psychological health is likely to suffer more than one with a job, home and supportive family. Not every addict has the same experience.

There are certain psychological symptoms that most people suffer sooner or later, either all at once or in clusters. Hence people may begin looking for acute when the symptoms get severe. This is because of the growing impact of the addiction’s harmful consequences in their lives.

Total abstinence and controlled use of a substance or activity is desirable, and at times substitute chemical or substance is the mode of treatment.


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-Vation

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