Guest Post: How to Develop a Happiness Mindset

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Guest Post by Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Happiness is all about mindset. Many believe that happiness depends on external factors, but this is not the case. Happiness depends on your mindset. Absolute happiness can exist even in the face of adversity when you have a positive mindset. 

Setbacks will always be a part of life. No one can avoid hardships or problems, not even monks or saints. When problems arise, you can tackle them head-on. And when there are joyous moments in life, you can savor them. And when you can remain relatively unaffected by whatever is happening around you, you can create a mindset of absolute happiness. 

“If you want to be happy, be.”

Leo Tolstoy (Russian Writer)
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Tips for Developing a Happiness Mindset

Here are nine mental health tips for cultivating happiness and developing a happiness mindset.

Have gratitude for everything you have.

Human beings have a disgusting trait. They tend to focus more on the negative aspects of life than the positive. Oftentimes, people are more concerned about the things they do not have instead of the ones they already possess. Hence, they become unhappy. 

When you dwell on the things you’re missing out on, it is easy to be unhappy. For example, you may feel resentful when you don’t receive a raise or promotion at work. However, when you look outside of yourself at the millions of unemployed people in the world, you may feel better. (At least you have a job!)

Have gratitude for everything you have. Gratitude helps to develop positive emotions, enjoy experiences, tackle adverse situations, and build healthy relationships. When you have gratitude for even the small things in your life, you feel happy. 

“Happiness will never come to those who don’t appreciate what they already have.”

Anonymous

Develop a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset.

There are two kinds of mindsets. The first is the fixed mindset, and the second, the growth mindset

In a fixed mindset, you are resistant to change. You are rigid in your way of thinking and are not concerned with self-improvement or personal growth. When you encounter challenges, you choose to not learn from them. You tend to defend your position blindly. Hence, you become an angry, irritated, fearful, and unhappy person. 

In a growth mindset, you crave learning and personal development. Whenever there is a challenge, you view it as an opportunity for improvement. With a growth mindset, you evaluate the situation, acknowledge the drawbacks, and focus on the skills you need to be successful. You do not have an inflexible, narrow mindset and are not driven by ego. Instead, you embrace any new challenge as a learning opportunity. Thus, you become happy and content. 

If you want to be happy, adopt a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset. Regard every challenge you face as a medium to grow and prosper. 

Make a list of the things that make you happy.

To foster a happiness mindset, make a list of the things and memories that make you happy. Every morning, jot down a few words or phrases (i.e., friends, a favorite vacation, a beloved pet, your favorite meal, a brand new car, etc.). Add to your list daily. Once you have a list of considerable length, devote 30 minutes to reviewing it. In those 30 minutes, reflect on the people, places, events, and things that bring you joy.

Do not overthink or judge yourself.

Human beings have 6200 thoughts per day. And not all of those 6200 thoughts are positive. You experience both positive and negative thoughts. Try to not dwell on your negative thoughts, and do not overanalyze them. When you overthink things, you may worry unnecessarily and feel unhappy. Also, do not be ashamed of your negative thoughts. It is okay to have negative thoughts; just don’t let them overpower you. For a happiness mindset, let the negative go, and instead, focus on the positive.

Think about the best moment of the day.

Before going to sleep at night, think about the best moment of your day. It will bring a smile to your face. Did you love the food your significant other cooked for dinner? Or, if the meal was mediocre at best, be happy that they took out time from their busy schedule to prepare something for you. (It’s the thought that counts, right?) Relish in the feelings of happiness and gratitude as you drift off to sleep.

Focus on your goals and the journey rather than the obstacles.

You will face obstacles in life. Sometimes, you will fail and fall flat on your face. But you can pick yourself back up. Focus on your goals and on the journey itself, not on stumbling blocks you encounter along the way. When you’re fixated on a problem, you become discouraged and are thereby less likely to look for the solution. Subsequently, you get stuck, and happiness may seem out of reach. 

To get unstuck, develop a plan, and then take action to achieve your goals. Get back on track with a renewed focus, and fight until you succeed. Your vision of success will help you move forward as you continue on your journey.

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

Ben Sweetland (Author and Psychologist)

Think positive thoughts about others. 

When you think negatively about the people in your life, you become incapable of maintaining healthy, genuine relationships. Misunderstanding and miscommunication can lead to conflict. Heated arguments or giving the cold shoulder generates hostility.

As much as possible, assume that others have positive intentions. For a happiness mindset, do not judge their words, actions, or motives. Judgments cloud your heart with unhappiness. 

Stop comparing yourself with others.

Each life is precious. Every journey is different. 

Now, envision that you’re scrolling through Facebook. You probably see smiling, attractive faces and happy, perfect families. In comparison, your life may seem dull or pathetic. Suppose you just went through a painful breakup, and when you view your home feed, all you see is your friends getting married or having babies. You may feel disheartened. If so, remind yourself that Facebook only reveals a tiny piece of the picture, not the full story. You are looking at edited highlights of your friends’ lives. You don’t know what happens behind the scenes. For a happiness mindset, stop comparing your life with others, and write your own story.

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.”

Mandy Hale (Author)

Seek medical help to regain your lost happiness.

Happiness leaves your life when you develop severe depression. Depression is like a thief. It steals optimism and joy. If left untreated, depression can lead to hopelessness and mental anguish and will rob you of the ability to feel any pleasure or enjoyment. It may impact your relationships with others, in addition to affecting sleep, appetite, and energy levels. 

Unfortunately, the stigma associated with depression and other mental disorders may prevent people from seeking the medical care they need. Many view mental illness as a choice, a weakness, or even a put-on. In reality, the brain, like all other internal organs, is susceptible to illness.

What would you do if you were having heart palpitations, dizziness, and chest pain? Would you ignore your symptoms… or would you ask someone to drive you to the nearest hospital? Certainly, you would seek immediate medical care. Urgent health issues require treatment; likewise, urgent mental health issues require treatment. 

When there are chemical imbalances in the brain, your thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are affected. As a result, you experience depression, anxiety, etc.

If you are depressed, consult with a psychiatrist to learn about available treatment options. After assessing your symptoms, the psychiatrist will recommend one or more medical treatments. The first line of treatment for depression typically consists of medication and psychotherapy. However, if your symptoms persist despite continued treatment, your doctor may prescribe an alternative treatment, transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy, or TMS therapy. 


What is TMS therapy? 

TMS therapy is a non-invasive treatment that involves the delivery of recurring magnetic energy impulses to the parts of your brain that regulate mood. The magnetic pulses stimulate targeted brain cells to enhance communication between different parts of your brain, restoring balance. When TMS therapy is given at regular intervals, it is called repetitive TMS (or rTMS). TMS therapy reduces symptoms of depression and improves mood. TMS therapy is also effective for decreasing symptoms associated with OCD, PTSD, anxiety disorders, chronic pain, etc. This treatment is painless and has little to no side-effects. It does not involve sedation. Even after undergoing a session, you can drive back to your home without any hassle. That’s the best part of TMS therapy.


Conclusion 

In conclusion, to cultivate a happiness mindset, you must master your mind, not the other way around. True happiness comes from within and is not influenced by external factors. 

To develop the happiness mindset, practice gratitude, strive to improve yourself and learn, reflect on the things that make you happy (daily), be kind to yourself (and others), be solution-focused, compare self with self (not anyone else), and seek psychiatric care for depression.


Guest Author: Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Ralph Macey, a professional writer since 2008 and medical health/patient care coordinator at savantcare.com since 2014, writes articles on all mental health-related subjects. He holds a degree and two professional certifications in his field and continues to upgrade his knowledge with additional classes and seminars. He also provides mental health consultations and private fitness instructions for free in his local community.

16 Best e-Newsletters for Therapists

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This is a list of the 16 best email newsletters for therapists, other mental health workers, students, and consumers. These e-newsletters were selected for quality/relevancy of content and usefulness of resources.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

Albert Einstein

Please repost this and/or share with anyone you think could benefit from these resources!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

16 Best e-Newsletters for Therapists

Newsletters are categorized based on target population: General/nonspecific and trauma-informed newsletters for therapists and counseling students, newsletters for addiction professionals, newsletters for both mental health professionals and consumers, and newsletters for research news.


For additional resources for therapists (posted on this site), see Free Online Education for Mental Health Professionals, Professional Membership Organizations for Mental Health Professionals, and Resources for Mental Health Professionals.

Mental Health Counselors & Students

General/nonspecific and trauma-informed e-newsletters

ACEs Connection Daily Digest

Site/Organization: ACEs Connection

Site Statement: “ACEs Connection is a social network that recognizes the impact of a wide variety of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in shaping adult behavior and health, and that promotes trauma-informed and resilience-building practices and policies in all families, organizations, systems and communities. We support communities to accelerate the science of adverse childhood experiences to solve our most intractable problems. We believe that we can create a resilient world where people thrive.”

Best for: News/articles about trauma and Webinar opportunities

Center for Complicated Grief Newsletter for Professionals

Site/Organization: Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia School of Social Work

Site Statement: “Receive the latest in industry news, therapy techniques, and new developments in Complicated Grief. New articles are added and updated regularly.”

Best for: Free Webinar opportunities and news

National Council Newsletter

Site/Organization: National Council for Behavioral Health

Site Statement: “The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 3,381 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery.”

Best for: Webinar opportunities, trainings, news, and other resources

Psychiatric News Update

Site/Organization: American Psychiatric Association

Site Statement:Psychiatric News Update is a weekly e-newsletter bringing you up-to-the-moment news about APA news; services, programs, and educational materials available to APA members; and links to the latest research reports in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Psychiatric News, and Psychiatric Services.”

Best for: News/research and training opportunities (free for members)

Psychiatry Advisor Update

Site/Organization: Psychiatry Advisor (from Haymarket Medical Network)

Site Statement: “Psychiatry Advisor offers psychiatric healthcare professionals a comprehensive knowledge base of practical psychiatry information and resources to assist in making the right decisions for their patients. Creating your free account with Psychiatry Advisor allows you access to exclusive content, including case studies, drug information, CME and more across our growing network of clinical sites.”

Best for: News and articles related to psychotropic medications, and training opportunities

Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy e-Newsletter

Site/Organization: Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy

Site Statement: “A strong voice for psychotherapy and home for psychotherapists, the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy is committed to preserving and expanding the theoretical and evidentiary base for psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic relationships, supporting life-long learning of psychotherapeutic skills, as well as making the benefits of psychotherapy accessible to all. The Society is an international community of practitioners, scholars, researchers, teachers, health care specialists, and students who are interested in and devoted to the advancement of the practice and science of psychotherapy. Our mission is to provide an active, diverse, and vital community and to generate, share, and disseminate the rapidly accumulating evidence base in clinical science and practice.”

Best for: News and research

Addiction Professionals

Addiction & Recovery eNews

Site/Organization: Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC)

Site Statement:Addiction & Recovery eNews is a bi-weekly newsletter delivering trending and breaking news, innovations, research and trends impacting the addiction-focused profession to over 48,000 addiction professionals every other Friday.”

Best for: Training (both free and low-cost) opportunities, news, and employment postings

ASAM Weekly

Site/Organization: American Society of Addiction Medicine

Site Statement: “The ASAM Weekly is a source of timely, useful news briefings of top stories for addiction medicine combined with ASAM developments in education, advocacy, state chapter news and more. ASAM Weekly is a great way to keep informed and is delivered to the inboxes of ASAM members every Tuesday.”

Best for: News and articles about addiction medicine

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Emails – Resources for Professionals

Site/Organization: Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

Site Statement: “The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs… With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction. Stay up-to-date on the latest addiction treatment trends, research and practices as well as news about Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s facilities, events and staff with Clinical Connection, [a] bi-monthly e-newsletter.”

Best for: Free Webinar opportunities, online courses, news, and podcasts

National Harm Reduction Coalition

Site/Organization: National Harm Reduction Coalition

Site Statement: “National Harm Reduction Coalition is a nationwide advocate and ally for people who use drugs. We are a catalyst and incubator, repository and hub, storyteller and disseminator for the collective wisdom of the harm reduction community.”

Best for: Resources, free Webinars, news

Partnership to End Addiction Emails (for Professionals or Family Members/Caregivers)

Site/Organization: Partnership to End Addiction

Site Statement: “Partnership to End Addiction is a result of the cohesive joining of two pioneering and preeminent addiction-focused organizations — Center on Addiction and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. We combine our depth of expertise with our compassion-driven, hands-on approach to deliver solutions to individuals and families and proactively take action to incite productive change. Together, as Partnership to End Addiction, we mobilize families, policymakers, researchers and health care professionals to more effectively address addiction systemically on a national scale.”

Best for: Policy news and research

Mental Health Professionals and Consumers

DBS Alliance Newsletter

Site/Organization: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Site Statement: “DBSA provides hope, help, support, and education to improve the lives of people who have mood disorders. DBSA offers peer-based, wellness-oriented support and empowering services and resources available when people need them, where they need them, and how they need to receive them—online 24/7, in local support groups, in audio and video casts, or in printed materials distributed by DBSA, our chapters, and mental health care facilities across America.”

Best for: News and resources

Mental Health America Newsletter

Site/Organization: Mental Health America (MHA)

Site Statement: “Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all. MHA’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them; with recovery as the goal.”

Best for: Webinars that offer certificates of attendance, news, recommended articles/podcasts, and downloadable toolkits

Research News

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Weekly e-Newsletter

Site/Organization: Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

Site Statement: “The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is a global nonprofit organization focused on improving the understanding, prevention and treatment of psychiatric and mental illnesses. The Foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research.”

Best for: News and Webinar opportunities

Recovery Bulletin

Site/Organization: Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital

Site Statement: “The Recovery Research Institute is a leading nonprofit research institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, dedicated to the advancement of addiction treatment and recovery. The Recovery Bulletin is a free monthly e-publication summarizing the latest and best research in addiction treatment and recovery.”

Best for: Research news related to addiction and recovery

ScienceDaily Newsletters

Site/Organization: ScienceDaily

Site Statement: “ScienceDaily features breaking news about the latest discoveries in science, health, the environment, technology, and more – from leading universities, scientific journals, and research organizations.”

Best for: The latest research findings


Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

8 Strategies for Spotting Fake News

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According to Wikipedia, fake news is “false or misleading information presented as news. It often has the aim of damaging the reputation of a person or entity, or making money through advertising revenue.”

How can you spot false information, defend yourself against it, and prevent the spread of fake news? This is a list of 8 strategies for spotting fake news and identifying misinformation.

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

8 STRATEGIES FOR SPOTTING FAKE NEWS

“The news and the truth are not the same thing.”

Walter Lippmann (American Journalist)

Your Brain on Fake News

Many accept fake news as fact – providing that it matches up with their current beliefs. This is due to confirmation bias, the tendency to look for and accept information that supports and confirms (rather than rejects) existing beliefs. Confirmation bias occurs when people gather or remember information selectively, or when they decipher it in a biased manner.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

    • COGNITIVE DISSONANCE CAN LEAD TO CONFIRMATION BIAS. ACCORDING TO THE THEORY OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE, WHEN SITUATIONS INVOLVE CONFLICTING ATTITUDES, BELIEFS, OR BEHAVIORS, PEOPLE EXPERIENCE MENTAL DISCOMFORT. WHEN ONE’S ACTIONS OR THOUGHTS CONTRADICT THEIR BELIEFS, THEY MAY ATTEMPT TO REDUCE THE DISCORD TO ALLEVIATE GUILT, SHAME, AND ANXIETY.
    • AN EXAMPLE OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE IS AN ANIMAL LOVER WHO FEELS GUILTY FOR EATING MEAT. AS A RESULT, THEY EXPERIENCE DISCOMFORT. TO REDUCE SHAME AND RESTORE A SENSE OF BALANCE, THEY MAY REJECT OR AVOID INFORMATION THAT PROMOTES VEGANISM OR CRUELTY-FREE LIVING.

Your brain happily receives and accepts information that aligns with your belief system while ignoring or distorting information that threatens your views. Research indicates that the effect is stronger for deeply ingrained and/or emotionally-charged biases and beliefs. Deep-seated biases/views that are formed early in life can be difficult to ‘unlearn’ because they reside in your unconscious mind.

To compensate for confirmation bias, a person must develop critical thinking skills and have a flexible (not rigid) thinking style. To challenge long-held (sometimes unconscious) prejudices, expose yourself to different viewpoints and perspectives. Also, question what you learned (or were told) in childhood.

Other ways to increase awareness are through assessment, such as the Implicit Association Test from Project Implicit, and training, such as the Implicit Bias Module Series (from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity).

By becoming self-aware, you gain ownership of reality; in becoming real, you become the master of both inner and outer life.

Deepak Chopra (Indian-American Author & Alternative Medicine Advocate)

The Misinformation TRAP

A second reason our brains are easily influenced by inaccurate or misleading information (even when we know better) is the result of routine cognitive processes involved in memory and comprehension.

When our brains are flooded with large quantities of information (i.e., the onslaught of news stories from multiple sources), we’re wired to quickly ‘download’ material rather than critically evaluate and analyze. This is the brain’s attempt at preserving its more complex functions. Later, the brain pulls up the readily available misinformation first because it’s easier to retrieve.

Moreover, research indicates that we’re more likely to believe fake news when both accurate and inaccurate information are mixed together in a source.

To avoid the misinformation trap, critically evaluate information immediately, always consider the source, and be aware of the brain’s difficulty with processing information that’s a mix of both fact and fiction.

Emotional Reactions & ‘Gut Feelings’

Emotions play a role in how we receive and process new information. Fear and anger are especially influential. Unfortunately, many people stick with their initial reactions or feelings instead of questioning the validity of a source. Attitudes towards a news source may also influence our automatic reactions.

On the other hand, individuals who rely on concrete evidence are less likely to be swayed by fake news. Researchers found that the acceptance of falsehoods and conspiracy theories was linked to having faith in intuition and/or associating truth with politics and power. Trusting our gut leaves us susceptible to misinformation. Alternately, relying on evidence for spotting fake news makes us less likely to believe false information.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

John Adams

For spotting fake news and avoiding being misled, notice any strong reactions you have, consider how you feel about the source, and rely on fact, not feeling.

Political Affiliation & Other Influences

Political affiliation influences how we process information. One reason for this is that strong identification with a political party generates a sense of belonging and loyalty. This leads to valuing party ideals over accuracy. Both liberals and conservatives are more likely to believe false information when it aligns with their political party.

“Blind party loyalty will be our downfall. We must follow the truth wherever it leads.”

Dr. DaShanne Stokes (Sociologist and Social Justice Advocate)

What’s more, political affiliation may impact how likely we are to spread false news on social media. According to research, Republicans are less likely than Democrats to have confidence in fact-checkers, and are therefore more likely to share fake news.

Interestingly, political affiliation may also predict how we react to false information about potential threats or hazards. Researchers found that conservatives are more likely than liberals to believe fake warnings and that liberals are more likely to dismiss false information about endangerment or risk.

Regarding gender and age, some research suggests that men are more likely than women to spread misinformation on social media as are individuals over the age of 65.

When it comes to politics and political news, be aware that partisan identity may lead to believing and/or spreading misinformation. Political views may also impact how likely you are to respond to warnings about potential threats and endangerment. Gender and age are additional factors that may contribute to the spread of fake news.

Check Your Source!

When you utilize social media sites for news, you’re less likely to consider the source and more likely to be misled by fake news. Social media sites like Facebook provide users with entertainment (videos, memes, etc.), community, an online marketplace, job postings, news, and more. The intermixing of content is what makes it difficult to discern fiction from fact.

“The information you get from social media is not a substitute for academic discipline at all.”

Bill Nye (Science Guy)

For spotting fake news and reducing the impact of false information you encounter on social media, avoid using Facebook as your primary news platform, and when you do come across a questionable post, always check the source!

Closing Thoughts

In sum, there are many reasons why we’re susceptible to believing misinformation, but there are evidence-based strategies for spotting fake news to avoid being misled.

STRATEGIES FOR SPOTTING FAKE NEWS

    1. 1) Use critical thinking
    2. 2) Remain aware of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance
    3. 3) Develop a flexible thinking style
    1. 4) Increase awareness of your own biases and challenge your beliefs
    2. 5) Rely on fact, not emotion or intuition
    3. 6) Consider your political affiliation and other influences (such as gender and age)
    4. 7) Avoid social media for news
    5. 8) Always check the source!

See below for links to a list of fake news hits (from Buzzfeed) and lists of websites that promote false information (from CBS, Forbes, and Wikipedia).

Sites for Spotting Fake News

15 Common Misconceptions About Addiction

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Despite a large body of scientific research, myths and misconceptions about addiction remain prevalent in today’s society, contributing to stigma, barriers to treatment, and higher health burdens. The following is a list of common misconceptions.

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15 COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ADDICTION

1. Misconception: Addiction is choice.

Fact: Addiction is widely recognized as a primary disorder of the brain. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, “Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.” Heavy and continuous use of drugs/alcohol damages the brain, increasing the likelihood of addiction.

Despite this, choice can play a role in long-term sobriety, similar to how lifestyle decisions (i.e. treating symptoms, exercising, eating well, etc.) play a role in the management of other chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease.

2. Misconception: Addiction is a character flaw or weakness.

Fact: The idea that addiction is a moral failing is based on the moral model of addiction. The reality is that addiction has little to do with moral conviction; both inherently “good” and “bad” people are susceptible to developing a substance use disorder.

That being said, a person in active addiction may act in contrast to their values; but that doesn’t mean they’re morally flawed. The moralization of addiction and associated stigma only contribute to guilt, shame, and a decreased willingness to seek treatment.

3. Misconception: Addiction is the result of a lack of willpower (and if someone “wanted it enough,” they would quit).

Fact: Like other chronic illnesses, addiction cannot be “willed” away. Individuals with substance use disorders are not compromised in willpower or lacking in self-discipline.

“The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics [are] wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”

Russell Brand

4. Misconception: Some people have “addictive personalities.”

Fact: The truth is that every personality “type” is prone to addiction; we’re all biologically wired for addiction since our thoughts/behaviors are influenced by the brain’s reward system. Risk factors, not personality traits, are linked to the development of a substance use disorders. Risk factors may include biological influences (including genetics and differences in brain receptors), environmental influences, age of first use, and method of use.

5. Misconception: Many people use trauma as an “excuse” for using drugs/alcohol.

Fact: There is a strong association between trauma and addiction, and research indicates that addiction is directly linked to childhood abuse and trauma. It may seem like an excuse, but substance use is oftentimes a means of survival and/or a way to cope with unthinkable atrocities.

6. Misconception: Relapse is part of the process.

Fact: While relapse is relatively common, it doesn’t have to be a part of recovery. There are many contributing factors, both biological and environmental (i.e. stressors), that increase the chances of relapse.

Successful relapse prevention plans involve the avoidance and/or management of risk factors. Also, the less severe the addiction, the more likely someone is to avoid relapse altogether.

7. Misconception: Abstinence is the only path to recovery.

Fact: Recovery is not one-size-fits-all. For some, abstinence may be the only acceptable route, but for others, a reduction in use or the use of a less harmful substance is the desired outcome.

8. Misconception: You have to attend 12-step meetings and work the steps to get sober.

Fact: While AA and NA are often part of sustained sobriety, they are not the only way to stop using drugs or alcohol. Alternative evidence-based treatments for addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, family therapy, and group therapy.

9. Misconception: You have to be “ready” to stop using in order for treatment to work.

Fact: Addiction is characterized by ambivalence (i.e. you want to get sober and at the same time, you want to get high). Motivation comes and goes. A person may enter treatment with no intention of quitting, and then undergo a significant transformation. Or, someone may feel 100% ready to stop only to later change their mind. Ambivalence is normal.

That being said, the consequences of addiction (or costs of using) are oftentimes what tip the motivational balance, leading to increased motivation.

“When you can stop, you don’t want to, and when you want to stop, you can’t.”

Luke Davies

10. Misconception: You have to want recovery for yourself before you can get sober.

Fact: External motivators (i.e. the threat of losing a job, divorce, legal consequences, etc.) frequently precipitate treatment, and motivation is then internalized during treatment.

Research indicates that success rates of mandated treatment are similar to voluntary treatment; moreover, mandatory treatment is associated with increased rates of completion.

11. Misconception: You have to hit “rock bottom” before you can recover.

Fact: Sustained sobriety can be attained without experiencing severe consequences. While the costs of using are often what motivates someone to get sober, there’s no rule that you have to “bottom out” first. This misconception can be deadly; you may die waiting (or death may be your “rock bottom”).

“Remember that just because you hit bottom doesn’t mean you have to stay there.”

Robert Downey, Jr.

12. Misconception: If you’re receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT), you aren’t really sober.

Fact: MAT is a highly effective evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder; it helps to sustain long-term recovery. There are also FDA-approved medications for the treatment of alcoholism. MATs effectively and safely relieve withdrawal symptoms and reduce psychological cravings.

13. Misconception: Needle exchange programs and safe injection sites enable continued use.

Fact: Harm reduction methods reduce HIV/HCV infections and decrease overdose deaths. According the the CDC, “the majority of syringe services programs (SSPs) offer referrals to medication-assisted treatment,  and new users of SSPs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment and three times more likely to stop using drugs than those who don’t use the programs.” SSPs are proven and effective, and aren’t linked to increased drug use or crime.

14. Misconception: Narcan enables continued use.

Fact: Narcan (an opioid reversal medication) enables life. It gives someone a chance for recovery.

15. Misconception: “Once an addict, always an addict.”

Fact: Having a substance use disorder increases your chances of becoming addicted to other substances, but the belief that you’ll forever be an “addict” can be counterproductive or harmful. People grow and change, and may stop viewing themselves as “addicts” when they leave the lifestyle behind.

The belief that “once an addict, always an addict” also depends on the recovery model you subscribe to; for example, AA/NA principles support the idea of the “lifelong addict,” but those who believe in other models may prefer to call themselves “ex-addicts” or simply say, “I don’t drink.”

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

Carl Bard

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP