The Psychology of Addictive Behaviour

Chaper summary on addictive behaviour :)


Explaining Addictive Behaviour

The Biological Approach:

  • The biological approach to drug addiction suggests that drug use affects receptor sites for neurotransmitters, causing a greater need for the drug with greater use.
  • Twin and family studies resembalances and DNA studies show that a disposition for addictive behaviours may be partially inherited. Multiple addictions also suggest a genetic component to risk.
  • Family similarites in drug use might alternatively be explained by environmental factors such as social learning.
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Explaining Addictive Behaviour

The Behavioural Approach

  • Includes operant conditioning (positive and negative reinforcement) and social learning.
  • Operant conditioning theory suggests that drug effects like euphoria are positively reinforcing and this can account for initiation and maintenance of the drug use, although the rewarding effects of drugs diminish with increasing dependance.
  • Gambling wins are unpredictable: they follow a variable ratio schedule of positive reinforcement. This leads to the behaviour being repeated frequently and being highly resistant to extinction.
  • Negative reinforcement can account for the maintenance of drug taking. The user continues to take the drug to avoid withdrawal and, more importantly , to reduce craving.
  • Social learning theory suggests that addictions may be acquired by observnig  and imitating models such as peers, and to a lesser extent, parents, especially if they are vicariously reinforced.
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Explaining Addictive Behaviour

The cognative approach

  • The cognative approach to addiction suggests that there is a cycle of low self-esteem and anxiety that causes drug use and that has consequences (such as loss of money or ill health) that exacerbate the emotional problems and perpetuate the addictive behaviour.
  • This cycle persits because the individual has irrational beleifs about their addiction and its role in their life. This distorted thinking makes abstinence difficult.
  • This theory readily explains individual differences, both of which contribute to vulnerability.
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Smoking as an addictive behaviour

  • Smoking is  highly prevalent and damaging. It results in an addiction that is hard to break.
  • Biological explanations of smoking identify withdrawal, craving, tolerance and genetic effects as important.
  • Cognitive explanations of smoking suggest that smokers develop dysfunctional beleifs that permit and perpetutate smoking. Salient cues such as seeign an ashtray induce the urge to smoke as the smoker cannot redirect their attention.
  • Learning explanations of smoking suggest that the use of nicotine initially provides a 'rush' that acts as a positive reinforcer, and that negative reinforcement maintains smoking in order to avoid withdrawal and craving.
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Gambling as an Addictive behaviour

  • Many people gamble but only some people become addicted. Those who do risk debt, crime and damage to their social relationships.
  • Biological explanations of gambling suggest that, like drugs, gambling activates the brain reward system. Problem gamblers exhibit craving, and genetic risks have been identifed, such as sensation-seeking personalities.
  • Cognative explanations of gambling suggest that gamblers have dysfunctional beleifs in relation to their luck and skill. Gamblers find it difficult to learn from their mistakes so repeatedly take risks.
  • Learning explanations of gambling suggest that early wins, especially if they are big, may predispose individuals to problem gambling and that the partial reinforcement schedule maintains the behaviour.
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Factors affecting addiction

  • Low self-esteem may put people at greater risk of developing an addictive behaviour, but not all evidence supports this.
  • People with addictions tend to make external attributions for their addictive behaviour but internal ones for the success of their abstinence.
  • Social context can increase of decrease the risk of addiction. Having drug-taking peers makes drug uae more likely; single and divorced people gamble more; homeless people are at risk of alcoholism. Involved parenting, in contrast, lowers the risk of drug use in children.
  • Models in the mdeia are high status, likeable and often provide vicarious reinforcement for addictions. This makes them powerful role models so imitation is likely.
  • Television advertisments and celebrities do provide models, although the extent of their impact on addiction is unclear.
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Reducing addictive behaviour

  • The theory of reasoned action suggests that addictive behaviours could be reduced by changing attitudes and norms, which in turn would affect the intention to abstain.
  • Although people with addictive behaviours may express intention to change, this does necessarily lead to abstinence.
  • The theory of planned behaviour suggests that people with addictive behaviours also need to beleive that they are able to abstain.
  • Individuals are more likely to be able to control their urge to relaspe if their goals are specific and implemented immediately.
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Reducing addictive behaviour

  • A biological strategy for reducing addictive behaviours is drug intervention. This can either replace the effect of the addictive behaviour, e.g. treating heroin addicts with methadone, or attempt to minimise the unpleasantness of abstinence, e.g. treating heroin addicts with naloxone to speed up and pass through the withdrawal stage.
  • For smokers, nictone replacement therapy, drugs that act like nicotine to reduce craving, and antidepressants are all effective although some produce side effects.
  • For gamblers opiate drugs, antidepressants ad mood stabilisers are being tested. As yet there are few conclusive results.
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Reducing addictive behaviour

  • A psychological strategy for reducing addictive behaviours is cognative therapy.
  • This aims to build the individuals ability to resist the urge to relaspe.
  • Commitment is raised through exercises such as challenging the individuals irrational beleifs about the advantages of their addictive behaviour and the disadvantages of abstinence.
  • Stratergies for coping are developed and homework is set to enable the individual to identify triggers and test self control.
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Brendan Dunlop


Poor spelling.

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