5 Unhealthy Addict Mindset Thinking Patterns

When habits form over time, how we think and feel about the behaviours, substances and content also changes. Interesting right? Often we don’t even notice these unhealthy thinking patterns develop and yet they have a big impact on how you function in daily life. These addict mindset thinking patterns are very different to healthy thoughts and the recovery mindset.

Thoughts, perceptions, assumptions and beliefs develop quietly in the conscious and unconscious mind. When you listen closely, you can hear them in daily conversations with the people around you and always in early therapy sessions. Many types of unhealthy thinking patterns develop when a behaviour becomes a habit, and a habit progresses into something more problematic that you can bring your attention to.

What I can tell you for sure, is that these unhealthy thinking patterns are 100% not associated with the recovery mindset or a healthy state of well-being.

A common example is ‘everyone drinks alcohol’. This is not a fact. Many people do not drink alcohol, never drink alcohol, do not like the taste of alcohol and choose not to use alcohol in any shape or form for a wide range of reasons. However, if you are telling yourself everyone drinks alcohol, you make it normal.

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These unhelpful thinking patterns are what reinforce the thoughts and thinking causing it to develop and form deeper in the psyche. They are distorted ways of thinking that shape your perception of reality.

Guess what? They are also closely linked to denial thinking and can be signs you are in denial.

The addict mindset is not a healthy one to have for tons of reasons which is why it’s good to know the signs. There are plenty more unhelpful thinking patterns that come to mind which I hear often in addiction counselling such as denying, dismissing, bargaining and recommitting. Sound familiar?

If you start to listen to your inner voice these might sound familiar to you. In conversations with my clients who come for addiction counselling and psychotherapy, these thinking patterns are often very obvious but they feel stuck in how to move forward and what to do. We are creatures of habit after all.

It is normal to want to change and move forward on one level, but at the same time feel a level of comfort and safety with what you know. This is called an inner conflict…’

These five common patterns of thought may resonate with you right now if you are contemplating a problem in your life with substances, alcohol or process behaviours. Or if you are concerned with a loved one who is struggling with a problem and you are trying to reach them.

5 Unhealthy Addict Mindset Thoughts

  • Normalising
  • Rationalising
  • Minimising
  • Generalising
  • Justifying

These are what I describe as addict mindset thoughts. It does not mean you are an addict or addicted, but it could be a sign that you are depending on the nature of your problem. They are common as habits form and dependencies and addictions begin to develop.

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What I can tell you for sure, is that these unhealthy thinking patterns are 100% not associated with the recovery mindset or a healthy state of well-being. The next time you find yourself using any of these when it comes to substances and behaviours that are rewarding or addictive in nature, it’s time to take a pause and work out what is happening. Developing self-awareness will help you to begin to work through these thinking patterns.

Humans have an incredible capacity to change how we think, form new habits, beliefs, talents, and skills and we grow and mature in many different ways.

Normalising Thoughts

Normalising is when we think, feel or believe a behaviour is normal or want to believe it is okay for a behaviour to be normal. It become our normal – essentially making something the norm. It does not mean it is the norm and is often a faulty belief system. It is not accurate, real or true. Something may have become the norm in your world, but that does not mean it is true. I ask my clients to focus on what is healthy for them, instead of what they think is normal or usual. This is because what is normal for one person, may not be normal for the next and there are many factors to consider. Normalising statements sound like:

  • ‘Sure it’s normal.’
  • ‘It’s okay to do it.’
  • ‘There is no problem with it’.
  • ‘It’s what I always do.’
  • ‘No big deal, it’s only a …’
  • ‘This is what I grew up with…’
  • ‘Sure it’s right there on the internet.’

The Rationalising Mindset

Rationalising a the thinking process of making something feel more acceptable and rational in a person’s mind. It is a way of weighing things up but in a biased way. Again, it is a faulty and unhelpful way of thinking to make a habit or behaviour sit more comfortably. Rationalising thoughts can be big or small. Here are some rationalising thoughts:

  • ‘I only gamble because it’s an easy way to make money’.
  • ‘It’s not a big deal to watch porn all the time because I am not in a relationship.
  • ‘I only drink a bottle at a time, I never drink more than that’.
  • ‘I am not an alcoholic because I still get up for work every day.’
  • ‘It’s not infidelity because it’s only online, it’s not real life’.
  • I smoke weed because it’s legal in other countries.’


Minimising is similar to rationalising and normalising. It is a mode of thinking to make something that is undesirable appear smaller and more reduced than reality. Playing down and minimising essentially makes you believe, think or feel the behaviour is smaller than it is. Minimising sounds like:

  • ‘It’s just a beer or two a night.’
  • ‘I only watch it (porn) a few times a week.’
  • ‘I only bet on the winners.’
  • ‘I’m sure my partner would be fine if they knew.’
  • ‘It’s not a big deal.’
  • ‘I only use drugs when I’m offered them. I don’t buy it myself.’
  • ‘I know I can stop anytime I want.’


Generalising is when you make a general, broad or widespread statement. It is not factually correct, accurate or true. It is not reality, just a perception or opinion that is incorrect. You are generalising when you say things such as ‘everyone’, ‘everybody’, ‘all men’, ‘all women’, and ‘people always’. Generalising statements reinforce behaviours and are unhelpful in many ways. For example:

  • ‘All men watch porn.’
  • ‘Everyone who’s into sport bets.’
  • ‘Everybody drinks alcohol, it’s part of our culture.’
  • ‘Everyone drinks at home or at the weekend.’
  • ‘Everyone my age does it.’
  • ‘All women drink wine nowadays.’
  • ‘Men never talk about their problems.’


Anytime you find yourself using the word just when you are talking about a habit or behaviour you are justifying. It sounds like it was just a drink, just a bet, just once and just a binge. Justifying is creating a reason or grounds for the action or behaviour. It is another way to minimise and rationalise a potential problem. Creating just needs for behaviour to continue is a form of trying to convince yourself or others in some way. Justifying is common and can be heard in conversations with a concerned partner or family who are expressing concern. It is creating reasons to justify something specific, for example:

  • ‘It’s just a few shots at the end of the night.’
  • ‘It was just once I bet that amount.’
  • ‘It was just once I blacked out.’
  • ‘It was just a bit of porn on my break.’
  • ‘It’s just a joint.’
  • ‘It was just the weekend that was in it.’
  • ‘Everyone was drinking, so I did too.’

Changing unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviours

Do these thinking patterns sound familiar to you? It may be a sign you have been struggling with a problem for some time now. Once you become aware that you might have a problem there are lots of positive steps you can take. It is normal to want to change and move forward on one level – but at the same time feel a level of comfort and safety with what you know and want to keep the status quo.

This is called an inner conflict and it comes with changing habits, developing new routines and starting a recovery process. Don’t worry! Humans have an incredible capacity to change how we think, form new habits, beliefs, talents, and skills and we grow and mature in many different ways. Working through inner conflict is just one step in the stages of change and when beginning to address unhealthy habits or addictions.

Reach out to your local addiction counsellor or behavioural psychotherapist or book an online appointment with me today.

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy

Orlagh Reid

Orlagh Reid is an IACP accredited Counsellor & Psychotherapist, Addiction Counsellor, Gottman Couples Therapist and Fertility Counsellor in private practice based in Co. Kildare, Ireland and worldwide online via DOXY. She specialises in addiction, recovery, well-being and clinical sexology. To find out more or to book an online consultation visit www.orlaghreid.ie

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy MIACP Therapy Ireland

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