Many people struggle with more than one addiction or disorder. A woman could have an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia and depression, while another might have anxiety and a dependence on prescription medication. Often, a hallmark of those struggling with a disorder or multiple issues is an inability to cope with their thoughts. This means that some people simply don’t interpret their thoughts in the same way that the rest of the world does.
Instead of recognizing thoughts as innocent mental musings, they believe thoughts are literal truth or directives and they act on them accordingly and persistently. This is referred to as overlearned automatic thinking
, which leads to overlearned automatic response
. Therefore, a woman gripped by anorexia thinks “I’m fat” because she views this as truth, her immediate response is to stop eating.
Over time, this way of thinking causes changes in the brain. Neuro-pathways become hard-wired, which causes brain synapses to naturally travel along this route - the path of least resistance. It’s like water trickling down a stream; it takes the same path unless it encounters an obstacle, at which point it redirects its course.
In order to avoid this habitual behavior and create new neuro-pathways, an interruption needs to occur between thought and action. Mindfulness, which is a key element of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT,)
has proved valuable in providing that critical interruption. In effect, being mindful is just that – it means that the individual intentionally lives in the moment.
Instead of immediately reacting to a thought, she deliberately stops, notices the thought, gives it the value it truly deserves and chooses to react to it in a whole new way.
To fully understand the concept of mindfulness, consider this: you are driving to work or other routine destination. You travel along familiar roads, thinking of this and that. Then, a red light blinks on and you are forced to stop. You gaze around and for the first time notice the new restaurant on the corner. This is being mindful: living in the here and now.
Just as you would notice the restaurant and possibly contemplate making a reservation, those grounded in mindfulness-based therapy would notice their thoughts and decide to react to them in a healthy new way. The woman plagued with thoughts of being fat might tell herself “that is such a foolish thought” then acknowledging she is a bit hungry, go ahead and eat lunch.
The beauty of mindfulness-based therapy is that it targets both behavioral and neurobiological processes. Therefore, the more the woman elects to react differently to the “fat” thought, whether it is having a snack, taking a walk, or calling a friend, the more this alternate neuro-pathway will be engrained. With time and practice, she can develop a freedom-based response to thoughts that previously only served to cause devastation and harm.
- Dr. Kim Dennis
RELATED FROM AROUND THE WEB