*This blog post was written by Dr. Maor Katz, Director of Feeling Good Institute

Tip#2: Help Your Patients See Tempting Thoughts as Distorted Thoughts.

One of the many wise contributions that Dr. David Burns gave to the cognitive treatment of behavioral habits and addictions is showing that TEMPTING thoughts are distorted thoughts in habits and addictions, the exact same way as NEGATIVE thoughts are distorted thoughts in depression and anxiety. Here are a few examples:

– Overgeneralization and All or Nothing thinking:
We can have the thought: “I’ve blown my diet completely and I’ll never lose weight so I might as well give up.”
Looking at the list of cognitive distortions you can see the same all-or-nothing thinking and overgeneralization distortions we’re familiar with from our work with anxiety and depression. Helping your patients see their thoughts in the face of temptation as distorted thoughts can help them face these thoughts, talk back to them, refute them, and change the way they face temptation.

– Jumping to conclusions and Mind Reading:
When your patient contemplates drinking he may may assume that other people don’t have to struggle with temptations, or that people who do abstain have drab, unfulfilling lives. These are cognitive distortions we call Jumping-to-Conclusions, and Mind-Reading.

– Fortune Telling:
When we tell ourselves “if I take that drink, I”ll feel great and my problems will disappear.” Or, “I’ll just have one drink” or “one bite,” even though we’ve never stopped at just one drink or bite in the past, a form of Fortune-Telling.

– Emotional Reasoning:
A common habits and addictions related cognitive distortion is Emotional-Reasoning. We tell ourselves, “I’ll clean my desk (or start my diet) when I’m more in the mood. I just don’t feel like it right now.”

Here I gave examples of six kinds of cognitive distortions in habits and addiction. The full list of distortions isn’t infinite. Dr. Burns names 12 kinds of cognitive distortions, all of which can be seen in the negative thoughts of depression and anxiety as well as in the tempting thoughts of habits and addictions.

In the table below, negative thoughts and tempting thoughts are juxtaposed to show their unifying pattern of distorted thinking. (The full list is available from Dr. Burns): Tempting Thoughts and Negative Thoughts Are The Same Distorted Thoughts Table.*

When working with CBT for habits and addictions, ask your patients to write down they’re thoughts in the face of tempting situations. Then, help them see the distortions in their tempting thoughts. Helping them talk back and refute these thoughts will help them face their temptations and overcome their unwanted habits.

To learn more about the TEAM CBT approach to addictions using empathy, motivational and CBT techniques for more effective therapy, join us for an upcoming workshop in Mountain View CA on May 31, 2015.

 

*Copyright 1984 by David D. Burns, M.D. Revised 2001. ** Adapted for addictions and habits. Revised 2006