10 Patterns of Addictive Behavior

1. Unsuccessful attempts to quit 

Addicts often express a desire to quit completely but are unable to follow through. Short-term abstention is common while long-term relapse rates are high. Mark Twain had a good line about the pains of quitting smoking: It’s easy. Done it a thousand times.


2. Cue-triggered relapse

Experience with an addictive substance sensitizes the user to environmental cues that subsequently trigger carvings. These cues (e.g., clinking ice cubes) signal opportunities for consumption. For example, upon exiting rehab, addicts who return to their old environment are more likely to experience cravings and resume use. A recovering addict is also significantly more likely to “fall off the wagon” if he or she receives a small taste of his drug-of-choice, or experience stress.  This is the very phenomenon that AA warns of, that abstinent alcoholics can’t resume occasional drinking without losing control.


3. Loss of control

Loss of control means that one is knowingly acting against one’s prior determination to abstain. For example, consuming a larger portion of dessert after deciding to go on a diet. The typical reaction to this failure can be described as involving strong negative emotions (depression and self-loathing).  It is instructive that the twelve-step program of AlcoholicAnonymous begins: “We admit we are powerless over alcohol – that our lives have become unmanageable.”


4. Desire without pleasure

Addicts commonly continue their behavior while reporting that the substance (cigarette or drink) is no longer pleasurable. Addicts often express that they continue to use drugs even when they no longer derive any pleasure. For example, some cigarette smokers express a deep hatred of smoking, but they continue to smoke regularly.


5. Staying vigilant

Despite some effective treatments for addiction, there is no cure. Recovering addicts often manage their tendency to make mistakes by exercising cognitive control, such as voluntarily reducing or eliminating future options. The main purpose is to reduce the probability of encountering cues that triggers relapse. For example, even addicts who have stayed clean for years attend the meetings of support groups, such as AA, in which no individual therapies or drugs are provided.


6. Cross-addiction

Many addicts often substitute one compulsive problem for another. They become compulsive workers, gamblers, or use sex as they used chemicals to combat the emptiness, boredom, anxiety, and depression that constantly threaten to overwhelm them.


7. Self-medication

The self-medication theory of addiction suggests that individuals with deficits in emotion-regulation skills (i.e., skills relevant for modifying emotional reactions and to tolerate negative emotions) use drugs in an attempt to manage negative or distressing affective states. For instance, individuals with histories of exposure to adverse childhoodenvironments (e.g., physical and sexual abuse) tend to have diminished capacity to regulate negative emotions and cope effectively with stress.


8. Genetic vulnerability

Most individuals who try drugs use them only a few times. Some will never advance beyond experimentation. Others will quickly become deeply involved and stay that way for a long time. There is a substantial evidence for genetic predisposition to develop addiction. For example, due to genetic vulnerability, children of alcoholics are at higher risk for future alcohol problems, and many of these children show high levels of impulsivity. Thus, you may have two glasses of wine and want no more, and yet the vulnerable person cannot stop with six.


9. Substance abuse vs. addict

Is there a difference between a substance abuser and an addict or alcoholic? At some undefined point, substance abusers are no longer in control of their substance use. Just as a pickle can never become a cucumber again, once a person crosses over this undefined line, there is an alteration in brain circuitry that cannot be reversed. Every drug user starts out as an occasional user and then shifts to a compulsive user.


10. Addiction is not limited to only substance abuse

The psychological concept of operant conditioning suggests that if a behavior is followed by a rewarding experience, an animal (or individual) becomes more likely to repeat the rewarding behavior at a later time. For example, a dog performs a trick to get a dog treat. In human beings, operant conditioning allows them to learn behavior leading to certain rewards (consequences). For example, the learning that playing video games (or web-surfing, shopping, and work) is followed by a reduction in distress, an individual will more likely to engage in the act in the future.

引用:Psychology Today