Learned Helplessness: What It Is and How It Affects Addiction Recovery

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Learned Helplessness - What It Is and How It Affects Addiction Recovery

Everyone who suffers from addiction will have days of realization when they clearly see how far their lives have gone off track. While some of them may decide to end the misery by starting a new life, some of them, unfortunately, may continue abusing the use of drugs and alcohol.

To those contemplating why some addicts still resort to substance abuse, it’s because many of them feel powerless to bring change to their lives. Many of them have learned to become helpless. Those battling with addiction but feel powerless to escape it might be suffering from learned helplessness.

To know what it is and how it affects addiction recovery, we’ve gathered some essential information.

What Is Learned Helplessness?

Learned helplessness, in psychology, is a mental state wherein people who are forced to bear an aversive stimulus become unwilling and unable to avoid subsequent encounters with it, even if it’s escapable.

The idea of learned helplessness originated from experiments done on animals. Researchers observed the behaviors of test subjects who were faced with aversive stimuli. These test subjects weren’t given ways to escape, but they were trying to find one at first. Eventually, they stopped trying and accepted their situation. Researchers then gave them a way to escape, but the test subjects didn’t use it. Instead, they learned to be helpless. When put in subsequent negative situations, the same thing happens to humans.

When it comes to addiction, learned helplessness occurs when people develop the idea that they have no control over what will happen to them in the future. They feel powerless to impact their lives, so they accept their situations, regardless of how unfavorable and unpleasant those situations are.

Symptoms of Learned Helplessness

Although symptoms of learned helplessness may vary depending on the situation, here are some of the most common:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Tendency to delay dealing with things
  • Difficulty in solving problems
  • Frequent episodes of loneliness, incompetence, and frustration
  • Likelihood of giving up in challenging situations
  • A mindset of having no control over what will happen

The Dangers of Learned Helplessness

Unfortunately, there are some men and women in recovery who also suffer from learned helplessness, and it has to be addressed due to the following reasons:

1. It increases the risks of relapse.

Since it makes people think there is no means to overcome addiction, learned helplessness increases the likelihood of relapse. Men and women in recovery may think that trying to recover from addiction is just a waste of time, so they resort to using drugs and alcohol again.

Some may even accept the misery brought about by addiction and think of it as the best thing they can expect from life.

2. It makes people lose their confidence.

Due to the feeling of powerlessness to impact their lives, men and women in recovery may lose confidence. They may think that anything they do won’t make a change, so they lose the trust they have in themselves.

Once they lose trust, they become stagnant. This causes them to suffer from feelings of loneliness, incompetence, and frustration.

3. It makes people dependent.

People who suffer from both learned helplessness and addiction may also become over-reliant on other people, especially their families and loved ones. They expect other people to take care of them, including facing the consequences of their mistakes.

The overreliance also applies in decision-making since they don’t think that their decisions will make any good impact. This makes the lives of everyone involved miserable.

4. It makes people develop trust issues.

Learned helplessness may also cause men and women in recovery to distrust people who try to help them. Since they have learned to accept their misery, they reject any help they get from family and friends.

They may think that promises about having a better life after addiction are not true. They become hesitant to give up the substance even with the help of other people.

5. It makes people develop suicidal thoughts.

Men and women in recovery may become upset due to stagnation. Some may even get depressed because of the feeling of powerlessness. The worst thing that can happen is that they may develop suicidal thoughts because of this.

How to Overcome Learned Helplessness?

Although learned helplessness seems like a very serious problem, there are many things that men and women in recovery can do to overcome it. One of which is to undergo Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

CBT changes the way men and women in recovery think and act. The treatment involves:

  • receiving constant encouragement and support
  • exploring the origin of learned helplessness
  • developing ways to reduces feelings of helplessness
  • identifying and replacing thoughts that lead to learned helplessness
  • identifying and avoiding behaviors that promote learned helplessness
  • improving self-esteem
  • addressing instances of trauma, abuse, and neglect
  • setting achievable and measurable goals

Research suggests that boosting mental health and having a better outlook in life benefits men and women in recovery. This can help them recover from addiction and learned helplessness.

Haven House Recovery Center is Here to Help

At Haven House Recovery Center, we help people recover from addiction, including those who suffer from learned helplessness. We provide a loving, nurturing, and caring background for every person since we believe that people who battle addiction should receive unconditional positive regard. To address issues in every aspect of life effectively, we develop customized treatment plans for every person. For inquiries, call us or visit our recovery center around Murfreesboro.