What Is the Relationship Between Maladaptive Thoughts and Substance Use?

What Is the Relationship Between Maladaptive Thoughts and Substance Use?

There is a great line in the movie The Sandlot that goes, “If you weren’t thinkin’, you wouldn’t have thought that.” It might seem pretty silly, but if you break it down, it is pretty profound. 

Our thoughts control us. Sometimes, our thoughts can consume us and rob us of any sense of serenity. When these interruptive or “maladaptive” thoughts begin to impede our everyday lives, it may be time to get help. These thoughts are compounded when they run in tandem with substance use, substance abuse, and addiction.

What Are Maladaptive Thoughts?

Maladaptive thoughts are false or irrational thoughts or beliefs that cause an individual to resort to negative or irrational behavior. Some examples of irrational or maladaptive thinking include:

  • Feelings of unworthiness
  • Feeling overly anxious or depressed over small or unwarranted situations
  • An inability to accept reality
  • High levels of passive aggressiveness

Sadly, these maladaptive thoughts are not benign. These false beliefs can lead to real physical harm, including self-harm and even suicide. These thoughts also often contribute to substance use, substance abuse, and addiction.

Maladaptive Thoughts vs. Healthy Thoughts

It is essential to recognize the difference between healthy and maladaptive or intrusive thoughts. Healthy thought processes can help to motivate and drive you. On the other hand, maladaptive thoughts can manipulate and stifle you. Healthy thoughts are often positive and affirming. Maladaptive thoughts are more often false and destructive. It is these maladaptive thoughts in those struggling with substance abuse that often drives them deeper into addiction or relapse.

Here at Roots Through Recovery, we aim to get to the core causes of these maladaptive thoughts. We want to help you or a loved one begin to recover from substance abuse or addiction. No one deserves to be stifled by their mind. Let us help you get back in control of your thinking and find peace of mind again. 

How Maladaptive Thoughts Contribute to Substance Use

A study reported in the International Journal of High Risk Behaviors and Addiction “showed that people with dependence/incompetence and defectiveness/shame schemas have a tendency to use drugs. In another research, it was indicated that personality troubles and addiction mostly appear as emotional deprivation, dependence/incompetence, entitlement/grandiosity, enmeshment/undeveloped self and failure schemas.” 

When lacking a healthy solution to unhealthy and intrusive thinking, it is common for people to turn to substances for comfort. Many 12-Step programs refer to the phrase, “It works until it doesn’t.” This means that substance and alcohol use often feels like the right solution at the beginning. It can help quiet some of that maladaptive thinking and ease self-doubt. The issue is that substance use is only a temporary solution, and if not mitigated, it can turn into abuse or full-blown addiction. 

This is why it can be crucial to work on why these maladaptive thoughts are occurring. When we can get to the underlying reasons for these negative thought patterns, we can then work on why they are so intertwined with the individual’s substance use.

Why Is It Important to Treat Maladaptive Thoughts?

Treating maladaptive thoughts can help to catch someone’s substance use before it gets out of control. When someone is expressing thoughts of loneliness, unworthiness, and self-doubt, this can be a cry for help. 

A person experiencing maladaptive thoughts may not know where to turn. As a result, they turn to something they feel they can control, like substance or alcohol use. However, the problem is that quite often, this toxic behavior can quickly spiral out of their control and into the realm of addiction. 

The good news is there are much healthier solutions than substance use. Roots Through Recovery is here to offer you those solutions.

How Can Roots Through Recovery Help?

Roots Through Recovery takes an individual approach to help all of our clients get the proper treatment and therapy they need for recovery. We offer one of the most popular forms of therapy to help with maladaptive thoughts. That therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT has been shown to help our clients address their maladaptive thinking. Through CBT, they can recognize and thus change the negative behaviors associated with them. In sessions of CBT, our clients can learn to recognize these negative thoughts as they arise. When doing this, they can pause and take the appropriate actions to avoid their old toxic behaviors. For those struggling with their substance use, this therapy can help them avoid relapse.

Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” That is why at Roots Through Recovery, we aim to change those maladaptive thoughts into positive thinking. Quite frankly, we want you to love yourself again.

When we begin to love ourselves again, we stop trying to sabotage our futures with something like substance use. We begin to see ourselves for what we are: worthy.

Maladaptive thinking can cause serious interruptions to your everyday life and well-being. If you are struggling with addiction or substance abuse, these interruptions can be even more pronounced. If you feel that maladaptive thoughts may exacerbate your substance use issues, it may be time to seek help. Roots Through Recovery can help treat these maladaptive thoughts, so you can better focus on overcoming your substance abuse or other mental health issues. There is no reason to let addiction or substance abuse control your life anymore. Many options can help you recover and begin living the life you and your loved ones deserve. Contact Roots Through Recovery at (562) 473-0827 for more information on our program.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


“I am so grateful to be an alumni of Roots. Roots took me from my darkest of places, to the brightest and most beautiful part of life I've ever lived. They genuinely care about their clients. You will not be a number or a paycheck here. After discharging in February, I still receive help and words of wisdom whenever needed. Roots helped me battle things I'd been struggling with for over 14 years and finally put them behind me. I love roots with all my heart, and always will.”


“Just got 365 days sober today all thanks to these people at Roots. And saved my marriage.”


“It's great to see such a high quality of care program in Long Beach! The entire staff shows great care and compassion for their clients. The therapists are among the best around. Their admissions and case management is compassionate and driven to help you succeed! If your looking for help with trauma or substance abuse, this is the place for help!”


“Very serene setting, you feel right at home when you walk in. The staff are super nice and really care about their clients.”


“The most compassionate and knowledgeable staff! Roots Through Recovery offers the best addiction care and treatment available. They use multiple disciplines to cater to a wide variety of clients. Music therapy, art therapy....you name it, Roots has it! Do yourself a kindness and check them out. You'll be glad you did.”