What is Cognitive Dissonance and How Do You Reduce it?

The developing brain is particularly susceptible to the effects of drugs of abuse; prenatal, childhood, and adolescent exposures produce long-lasting changes in cognition. Patients with mental illness are at high risk for substance abuse, and the adverse impact on cognition may be particularly deleterious in combination with cognitive problems related to their mental disorders. Cognitive behaviour therapy is a structured, time limited, psychological intervention that has is empirically supported across a wide variety of psychological disorders. CBT for addictive behaviours can be traced back to the application of learning theories in understanding addiction and subsequently to social cognitive theories. The focus of CBT is manifold and the focus is on targeting maintaining factors of addictive behaviours and preventing relapse.

cognitive dissonance and addiction

Relapse prevention programmes are based on social cognitive and cognitive behavioural principles. More recent developments in the area of managing addictions include third wave behaviour therapies. Third wave behaviour therapies are focused on improving building awareness, and distress tolerance skills using mindfulness practices.


At Beach House, you’ll start learning about our curriculum and treatment modalities from the earliest stages of your stay in our intensive outpatient program. As you move through our full continuum of care, your therapist will challenge you to start integrating the new skills you’ve acquired into all aspects of your life. By the time you complete our programming, you should understand the underlying cause of your addiction and be able to spot any unconstructive thoughts and emotions that arise. In therapy, Cognitively Dissonant individuals will start to notice a shift in previously held beliefs, and begin to acknowledge how they have justified their addictions in the past.

At the start of treatment, Rajiv was not keen engage to in the process of recovery, having failed at multiple attempts over the years (motivation to change, influence of past learning experiences with abstinence). However, there are fortunate individuals who see how their substance abuse is causing not only destruction in their lives but also with those who cognitive dissonance and addiction love them. They hold onto the belief that they will see better days and that recovery is needed to change their life. It provides an introduction to the theory and covers the topics of cognitive dissonance following decisions, the effects of forced compliance, the impacts of voluntary and involuntary exposure to information, and the role of social support.

Examples of cognitive dissonance

This is exciting, because it means we’re always learning, but it can lead to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance isn’t just a vague psychological theory — in fact, contradictory beliefs appear in our lives more often than we might want to admit. The important thing is to stay connected to yourself and make positive changes when needed.

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