Addiction and Learned Helplessness

How does one learn to be helpless?

Learned helplessness…sounds like an oxymoron, right?

recovering from addictionThe idea of ”learned helplessness” originated from experiments on animals. Researchers would put a hapless creature in a situation where they were faced with unpleasant stimuli from which they tried but could not escape. Eventually, they just accepted their situation and stopped trying to escape. Even when researchers added a means of escape, they would fail to make use of it. They had learned to be helpless.

Feelings of Powerlessness

Obviously, learned helplessness involves feelings of powerlessness. Applied to humans, it occurs when an individual has developed the idea that they have no real control over what will happen to them in the future. They feel powerless to control their destiny, so they just accept their current situation no matter how bad it happens to be. In addiction, learned helplessness must be overcome in order to begin to seek recovery.

Some individuals who feel powerless in their life may turn to substance abuse as a means to escape this discomfort. In the beginning, they may feel that alcohol and drugs help, but in reality their problems are only starting. Others developed learned helplessness as a result of their addiction. This occurs because of failed attempts to quit or control their substance abuse. The individual develops the idea that they have no choice but to accept their current situation.

Getting Beyond the Denial

However, all addicts will have days when they are unable to ignore the reality of their situation. During these moments of lucidity, they can get beyond the denial to clearly see just how far their life has gone off track. Some may be so affected by this realization that they decide to end the misery and enter rehab. Unfortunately, many will just continue with business as usual.

Learned helplessness manifests as a series of negative emotions that can keep an addict trapped and prevent them from seeking help:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Procrastination or delay in taking important actions or making decisions
  • Feelings of frustration and loneliness
  • A belief that an individual has no control over the outcome of future events
  • A belief that things will turn out badly no matter what
  • feelings of incompetence
  • Giving up in the face of difficulty

The good news is that helplessness can be unlearned. At 12 Keys Rehab, we help substance abusers unlearn helplessness every day, by helping our clients realize that their self-imposed limitations can be overcome. At 12 Keys, you or someone you love will learn to trust in the reality that your actions can have a positive impact on your future, which is crucial to a successful and lasting recovery. You CAN escape the misery of addiction. Take control of your destiny and call 12 Keys today.

The Addiction Blog