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How the AAT can help to cope with addictions

How to deal with Addictions

The Approach-Avoidance Task

The good into the pot, the bad into the crop…

Somewhere between our favorite cocktail at a bar and a whole bottle of whisky, a night is a problem. 3 million adults between 18 and 64 met the criteria of an alcohol-related disorder in the year 2018 (alcohol abuse: 1,4 Million; alcohol addiction: 1,6 Million*). Alcohol-related disorders are a problem in Germany.

But what can we do against this problem? How are alcohol-related disorders treated?

One common method to treat these disorders is the so-called Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT). The basis of this treatment is the assumption that every addiction is a consequence of a subconscious learning process. Addiction-related behavior is associated with positive outcomes, like feelings of happiness or reduction of stress after consumption. Affected persons try to reduce the physical distance to alcohol, to keep it nearby.

That is where the AAT works. The automatic proximity behavior must be unlearned actively. To do so, little tasks are used to learn to keep a physical distance from alcohol. Alcohol can be pushed apart, thrown away, or rejected. Patients also learn to discriminate between alcohol and innocuous substances (e.g. lemonade or a fruit).

What do you think of this kind of treatment for alcohol abuse?

#addiction #psychotherapy #mentalhealth

*Atzendorf, J. et al. (2019): Gebrauch von Alkohol, Tabak, illegalen Drogen und Medikamenten. Schätzungen zu Konsum und substanzbezogenen Störungen in Deutschland. Deutsches Ärzteblatt, 116(35-36), 577-584.