Cognitive Explanations of Addiction

The cognitive approach states that negative behaviour is caused by faulty thought processes by the person. It focuses more on why the behaviour started and more specifically why a person may come to rely on a drug or behaviour when in some cases using the drug can cause more harm than dealing with the problems they are trying to hide from. In areas it also over laps with the behavioural approach as the cognitive behavioural; here it concedes that faulty thinking can be learnt often through vicarious learning.

There are three main theories contained within the cognitive model these are; the self medication model, the rational choice theory and the expectancy theory. In 2002 Gelkopf developed the self medication model; this states that individuals use drugs to treat psychological problems. He also said that the drug a person took what carefully chosen, for example a person smoking to relieve stress or anxiety. Smokers then persist in their behaviour because they have the impression that the drug, cigarettes, are working.

Cigarettes have an instant effect on stress as it stops the withdrawal symptoms the individual would have been experiencing. The cigarettes however, in the long term, increase stress levels; this encourages the individual to light up again. This can lead to a vicious cycle as the person smokes to relieve stress and becomes stressed thinking that they have not smoked, urging them to maintain their behaviour. After a period of abstinence if a person smokes they quickly become stressed due to the fact they are smoking and the behaviour is repeated to relieve the stress. The same is true for the use of alcohol to control nervousness.

This supports the deterministic side of the free will debate as a person cannot choose to change their thought patterns because they are involuntary. Gottdiener et al conducted a meta-analysis of 10 studies which focused on the main part of the model which is ego control. He found that all the participants who were substance abusers had a loss of ego control; they thought they were better advised to treat their psychological problems themselves; using drink or drugs. As this is a collection of studies it is more likely to be reliable as all the results are consistent and it will contain a large sample.

It is also a recent study conducted in 2008 which means that it is still relevant and applicable to today’s society. Sanjuan’s 2009 study supports the self medication model; he found that women who had been sexually abused were more likely to use drugs or alcohol to relieve inhibitions before sex than those who had not been sexually abused. The self medication model also states that drugs are chosen for their affect on an individual, this disregards the theory that gateway drugs such as cannabis lead to harder addictions such as heroin.

The self medication model is highly reductionist as it does not take into account any other theories or models for example it discredits totally the dopamine hypothesis, saying that addiction is purely disordered thinking. Cause and effect can also be debated with this model as it is difficult to explain why an addictive behaviour has been initiated when no major psychological problems are present, however this could be argued as a matter of opinion due to stress being a subjective experience and so can be judged by none other the individual.

Another theory which falls under the cognitive umbrella is the rational choice theory. West et al in 2006 said that an addiction was when a specific behaviour was excessively frequent or the costs clearly outweigh the benefits but the behaviour persists. Becker and Murphy testified that people choose to engage an addictive behaviour after weighing up the costs and benefits. The model uses the concept of a ‘Utility’, from economics which is a measurement of satisfaction relative to the consequences of the action.

They finally stated that people who conducted the behaviour had a positive view on a negative occurrence, hence faulty thinking. They said that initiation was a rational choice based on the utility of the drug, after weighing up the positives and negatives. Becker and Murphy declared that addicts maintained behaviour as they reason that the utility of the addiction is still high. This supports the deterministic side of the debate as it says that if your lifestyle allows the utility of the drugs to be high then you will b a user.

The nature side of the nurture debate is This theory is supported by the fact that some users are able to one day stop taking drugs all together, when they realise the utility has fallen; but fails to encompass those who want to stop their behaviour but are unable for some reason. According to this theory making a drug illegal should decrease the utility and so prevent many people from using, this clearly is not the case as there is still a high number of users.

This theory cannot fully apply to gambling as the costs outweigh the benefits, however this again is a subjective opinion as the ‘rush’ they get from gambling may be enough and it may not all be about the financial benefits. The Rational Choice theory is again disproved as in the Netherlands 9. 7% of young adults, 15 to 14 consume cannabis once a month, comparable to 15. 8% in the UK; surely where cannabis is legal in the Netherlands use should be higher as its utility is higher. This however is ethnocentric and so ungeneralizable to all and does not take into account the different attitudes towards drugs held in the Netherlands.

The cognitive approach assumes that OCD is a consequence of faulty and irrational ways of thinking taken to an extreme. Patients with OCD have different thinking patterns and more intrusive thoughts. The cognitive explanation stresses that everyone has unwanted thoughts …

CBT combines both the cognitive and behavioural approaches to psychology to provide a treatment for many things, in this case stress. It is based on two assumptions. 1) Abnormal behaviour is the result of thinking traps e.g. catastrophising, black or white …

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder as it often involves a loss of contact with reality and a lack of self insight. Schizophrenia has a large number of clinical characteristics. Some of these are Thought control, delusions of passivity, control and …

Another factor in explaining why bystanders choose not to intervene that can be applied to both theories is the cost of time. This was shown in a content analysis of answers given in response to five written traffic accident scenarios …

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