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Most people learn from others. We learn about how to act, how to eat, and even when to sleep from people that we trust. The people utilize learned behavior to create a directed environment for us to exemplify. But what happens when we learn the wrong behavior? How can this be detrimental to our lives and the way we act?

What Is Addiction?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as the following:

[A] chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. Those changes may last a long time after a person has stopped taking drugs. Addiction is a lot like other diseases, such as heart disease. Both disrupt the normal, healthy functioning of an organ in the body, both have serious harmful effects, and both are, in many cases, preventable and treatable.

What this explanation shows is that addiction is something that can be dealt with. This is true no matter what the addiction is or how far it has gone. There are always ways to go about changing one’s behavior in order to develop a healthier lifestyle.

What Is Learned Behavior?

Often, people will find that they experience learned behavior at a young age. This is often in the form of people who have some power or influence over them. It may be a parent, guardian, teacher, or even friend.

Learned behavior is a result of seeing someone engage in an activity that looks normal or even noteworthy and emulating that act. The problem is when this learned behavior is a result of negative events. For some people, a parent who smokes cigarettes will see it as normal and will begin smoking at a younger age. This may also be despite protests from this influential as the “do as I say, not as I do” mentality does not apply to individuals of a certain age.

The concept of learned behavior is not relegated to childhood. In fact, it can affect people at any life stage if they are prone to emulating the behaviors of others. Although it is not the same as peer pressure, the idea of seeing friends engaging in an activity may normalize it. Once normalized, it is no longer considered negative or a threat and may feel natural and, in some cases, encouraged. 

How Learned Behavior Affects Addictive Behavior

Not all learned behavior is positive. For some people, the learned behavior leads to addictive behavior. This can be applied to the aforementioned cigarette example or to any other substance use issues. Those who find themselves in this situation may suddenly realize that their behaviors are not normal, not healthy, and may be actively ruining their lives. This will become apparent from feeling the effects of the substances or having them noticed by loved ones who point out that these learned behaviors are not healthy or normal.

Recovery and Treatment for Learned Behavior

Once an individual understands that they have fallen into the trap of addictive behavior, they can enter treatment. They will be able to undergo a variety of treatment options that will address the roots of their addictive behaviors as well as their current situation.


The point of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is to “form a clear idea of your own thoughts, attitudes, and expectations. CBT aims to reveal and change false and distressing beliefs because it is often not only the things and situations themselves that cause problems but the importance that we attach to them too.”

This therapeutic approach will allow people to see that their behavior stems from a time when it was normalized by an influential individual whose own beliefs were counter to their well-being. CBT will help people realize that the root of their addiction may not be trauma but simply that they were given false information regarding certain behaviors.

Individual Therapy

For those who enter a recovery program, the idea of finding the root of the problem is only half of the process. The other half is about dealing with these issues as they currently exist. This involves talking to a trained therapist. When issues stem from learned behavior, it is important to learn if clients are prone to negative influence. Their therapist will discuss how to surround themselves with people they can trust to give them positive advice and be proper role models.

West Coast Recovery Centers Can Help

At West Coast Recovery Centers, the idea of unlearning learned behavior is something we deal with every day. Clients are encouraged to explore their background and the roots of their issues in order to start from the beginning and work forward.

The idea of dealing with current addictions is often based on the understanding that their behavior has stemmed from a specific event or time in their life. Our program aims to take people back to those moments, reorganize the narrative, and place them in a better spot on their path to recovery.

At West Coast Recovery Centers, we are dedicated to each individual client. We know that while some individuals come to addiction on their own, others are the product of learned behavior. For these clients, our staff is prepared to engage them in discussing their past and what they may have picked up from parents, friends, or other individuals. People in influential positions often provide us with the wrong ideas of what we should do in life. This includes substance abuse that can lead to addiction. West Coast Recovery Centers understands that unlearning this behavior can be difficult. However, we are here to help. For more information about our program, call us at (760) 492-6509.

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