Cognitive Distortions in Addiction Recovery

Cognitive Distortions in Addiction Recovery

If you’ve never heard of cognitive distortions, then you’re not alone. Experiencing cognitive distortions in addiction recovery is very common.

These distortions can be caused by insecurity, self-doubt, negative thoughts, and more. Addiction recovery is a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions. Our center for addiction treatment in Gilman is aware of these distortions and is sharing more information about what they are and how recovering addicts can overcome them.


What Are Cognitive Distortions?

Cognitive distortions are negatively exaggerated or irrational thoughts about ourselves. They’re usually negative assumptions we have about ourselves or ways of thinking in which you attempt to convince yourself something positive isn’t true. An example of a cognitive distortion is believing your job is terrible because of one bad thing out of the many other good ones. These thoughts cause us to view reality in untrue and negative ways. When it comes to coping with cognitive distortions in recovery, many people require therapy to prevent these thought patterns from disrupting their progress. At Banyan Treatment Centers Heartland, we offer cognitive behavioral therapy, which is not only used to treat a variety of substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses, but it’s also the form of therapy that’s directly linked to treating cognitive distortions.


Common Cognitive Distortions


There are 10 types of cognitive distortions:

  • Overgeneralization: This is when a person makes a broad assumption or conclusion based on one single event. For example, “I failed this math test so I must be stupid.”
  • Personalization: This is when a person assumes they’re responsible for everything that happens to themselves or others. For example, your friend or family member is in a bad mood, so you assume they’re upset at you or it’s your fault.
  • Mind Reading: When a person believes they know what other people are thinking about them. These are usually negative assumptions.
  • Black-or-White Thinking (Polarization): When a person views something that isn’t perfect as a complete failure. For example, an artist makes one small mistake on a piece that only he notices, and he throws the whole thing away.
  • Fair Universe Fallacy: This is when a person believes that life should be fair and that people who do bad things deserve punishment and people who do good things deserve reward.
  • Jumping to Conclusions: As the name suggests, this occurs when a person automatically jumps to a conclusion about what someone will think or what will happen in the future. These are usually negative assumptions.
  • Filtering: Occurs when a person focuses only on the cons and ignores the pros.
  • Catastrophizing: When a person assumes that a possible outcome of a situation will be unbearable.
  • Emotional Reasoning: Assuming something is true based on feeling even if there’s no evidence proving it to be true.
  • Discounting the Positive: When a person finds reasons to discredit themselves when they’re complimented. For example, when a friend compliments your artwork and you give an excuse as to why it isn’t good enough.
  • Change Fallacy: When a person believes they “fix” or change other people.


Whether you’re in addiction recovery or not, you may recognize some negative thought patterns on this list of cognitive distortions. It’s common to experience these negative thoughts and assumptions while recovering from an addiction. Substance abuse can make a person feel self-conscious, guilty, and ashamed. These feelings don’t automatically go away when a person receives drug or alcoholism treatment. Recovery can make anyone feel self-conscious and insecure, which can develop into cognitive distortions. Fortunately, our Banyan Heartland team is offering some tips for managing cognitive distortions in recovery.


Tips on How to Cope with Cognitive Distortions in Addiction Recovery

Combating negative thinking in recovery can be challenging. At Banyan Heartland we believe that utilizing comprehensive treatment approaches that are both structured and adaptable to each patient is the best way to tackle the physical and emotional effects of substance abuse. Our experience has allowed us to come up with several ways to overcome cognitive distortions in recovery. 


Speak to a Therapist

The mind can be finicky and complex. We don’t always have the answers and trying to spot any problems from up close can be difficult. Going to therapy allows you to speak to someone who can help you identify the source of your negative thoughts and feelings.


Use the ABC method

The ABC method was created by psychologist Albert Ellis as a way to identify and challenge distorted thinking. ABC stands for activating event, belief, and consequence. The activating event is the cause of your negative feelings. Belief refers to your assumptions regarding the meaning of the incident. The consequence is the negative thoughts and emotions that occur as a result of the event.


Keep Track of Your Thoughts

Journaling is a habit that’s often recommended to people recovering from addiction. Journaling or jotting down your negative thoughts and feelings is also another part of the ABC method. Individuals are encouraged to begin with C, the consequence, and then work their way back to identify A, the activating event. It’s a great way to organize thoughts on paper and identify the irrational belief in the situation; this is the goal when it comes to realizing and overcoming cognitive distortions.


D & E Come After ABC

Once you’ve gotten the hang of ABC, you can then move on to D, disrupting irrational beliefs, and E, finding effective replacements. The best way to disrupt irrational thoughts is by looking for evidence that contradicts what you’re thinking. For example, if a person is catastrophizing, they can disrupt this thought pattern by thinking back to similar scenarios in the past that ended positively. Scrutinize both your negative and positive evidence to make sure you don’t fall into another negative thought pattern. Once you’ve established this step, you can then replace your old assumptions with newer and more accurate ones. For example, if you think it would be the end of the world if you lost your job, you could replace this assumption with a more realistic thought like, “I would be very worried if I lost my job, but I could always find a new one.” This process may take a while to get the hang of, but it’s worth it.

At Banyan Heartland, we’re dedicated to helping our patients through every step of their recovery. If you or someone you know hasn’t taken that first step towards sobriety yet, give us a call now at 888-280-4763 for more information about our facility and levels of care.



Alyssa who is the National Director of Digital Marketing, joined the Banyan team in 2016, bringing her five-plus years of experience. She has produced a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. Through strategic marketing campaign concepts, Alyssa has established Banyan as an industry leader and a national household name.