Addiction Recovery: Why Improving Self-Efficacy is the Key to Lasting Change

It’s easy to start a change, but it’s difficult to make it stick. If you’ve been to the gym in January and February, you have probably seen that fact first hand. New Year’s resolutions drive people to the gym in droves, much to the chagrin of regular attendees. However, as the year progresses, fewer people remain. Soon, it’s business as usual.

Making any real change is difficult and uncomfortable. Humans tend to gravitate toward habits and schedules as a way to live in the familiar. Plus, when we experience things that trigger the reward center in our brains, we crave more of that activity. From sugary foods to heroin, our brains are wired to make a note of all that trigger dopamine and endorphin release and crave them again. This can mean developing bad habits and even addiction. Resisting urges and cravings on a long-term basis means fighting against your own brain chemistry.

The best way to change your behavior is to first change your thinking. One of the most powerful tools in making changes, especially in addiction recovery, is self-efficacy. By building self-efficacy, you are more likely to resist the urge to relapse when faced with triggers and stressors that would have you revert to old habits.

What Is Self-Efficacy?

Self-efficacy is a general term that’s used in a number of settings. In the classroom, self-efficacy refers to a student’s belief in themselves. Teachers will often employ techniques to increase self-efficacy to improve their perseverance and motivation. The notion that believing in yourself is the key to change may sound like a cliche. However, in behavioral psychology, self-efficacy takes on a much deeper meaning, and the research shows that it’s the foundation for behavioral change.

The phrase was coined by Albert Bandura, a Stanford psychologist that studied the hypothesis that any form of behavioral treatment ultimately achieves change through altering self-efficacy in the 1970s. He suggests that increasing a person’s belief in their own ability to change will lead to many benefits including:

  • Making it more likely that positive coping behavior will be used
  • Increasing the effort expended in pursuit of change
  • Increasing the length of time you’re willing to expend effort
  • And perseverance through obstacles and drawbacks

In a 1999 paper on the cognitive-behavioral model (the model behind the most popular therapy for addiction), psychologist Alan Marlatt described self-efficacy as a person’s “mastery over their behavior.” Not only is self-efficacy a belief in yourself or in your abilities, but it’s your ability to resist relapse behaviors. The growth of this efficacy is essential to relapse prevention and achieving lasting sobriety.

Where Does Self-Efficacy Come From?

Throughout a person’s everyday life, they may experience things that increase or decrease their level of self-efficacy. Bandura identified four sources of self-efficacy that teachers and therapists use to help people take on challenges without giving up and stick with commitments. The four sources of self-efficacy include:

  • Mastery experiences. An experience in which you achieve success is the primary source of self-efficacy. When you achieve something, you are more likely to see yourself as capable the next time a challenge presents itself. Unfortunately, failures often do the opposite by tearing down efficacy. In behavioral therapies, you might learn to change negative thinking that focuses on failures.
  • Vicarious experience. Observing a friend’s achievement can also strengthen your beliefs in your ability. If sobriety or other goals seem too lofty to achieve, seeing someone close to your make progress or succeed can bring an astronomical challenge down to earth.
  • Verbal persuasion. Constructive communication and feedback can also boost self-efficacy. Addiction counselors, therapists, and support groups can provide encouragement that boosts a person’s efforts.
  • Psychological states. Your mood has a lot to do with your self-efficacy. Anxiety, depression, and frustration will erode your willingness to expend effort, while a positive mood can bolster your efforts. Because mood is so powerful, behavioral therapies often focus on healthy ways to handle the stress that might lead to a poor mood and ultimately, low self-efficacy.

Ways to Improve Self-Efficacy

Through addiction treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, you can learn techniques to increase self-efficacy so you can handle triggers and cravings when you encounter them. In your daily life, several practices can help boost your self-efficacy. Social scientists Howard Margolis and Patrick P. Mccabe determined several tips for improving self-efficacy for teachers to use with students who are struggling. Several are applicable in addiction recovery and, in one way or another, they are often used in treatment. These tips include:

Set Challenging but Attainable Goals

Since achievement increases self-efficacy and failure erodes it, set goals that are challenging enough to be meaningful and achievable enough to avoid likely failure. For instance, your goal shouldn’t be to go to a party where everyone will be binge drinking and do your best. In that scenario, you would be putting yourself in a high-risk situation that dramatically increases your chance of relapse. Instead, set a goal to go to regular support meetings, or to share your recovery story. Then, use achievements to your advantage when you face a new challenge. Remind yourself that you’re capable of success.

Surround Yourself with Dedicated Peers

Peer groups allow you to absorb a little vicarious self-efficacy. In classrooms, group learning and projects show students that they are capable of success based on the success of their friends. In recovery, support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are helpful in relapse prevention for a similar reason. Inspiration and accountability can improve your ideas about your own ability. Plus, encouragement from mentors and peers can expose you to verbal persuasion as well.

Make Your Own Choices

In the addiction recovery field, it’s well-known that no one-size-fits-all addiction treatment works for everyone. People have different needs, and they respond to different methods. A treatment program should be tailored to your history, needs, and preferences. Being involved in your treatment planning can make you more invested and interested in putting in the effort to see it through.

Are You Seeking Help?

As you or your loved ones are dealing with addiction, remember that there’s no need to struggle alone. Call 855-781-9939 or contact us online and get connected with the addiction specialists at Arete Recovery. Our caring and educated team members will help navigate you to the proper care you need. Don’t delay; call now.

Can MDMA Cause Depression?

Recreational club drug users who pop ecstasy or Molly pills expect to experience euphoric highs that last several hours and transport them to another world. They may feel emotional warmth, a distorted sense of time and space, and increased energy and pleasure.

However, what they don’t expect to feel is depression, a mental health disorder that is estimated to affect 16 million adults in the United States and 300 million people across the globe.

Nonetheless, feeling down in the dumps is a common side effect of using MDMA, particularly after the highs have passed and use of the drug has stopped.

How MDMA Affects the Brain

MDMA is the abbreviation for 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine. It is an illegal, synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to stimulants and psychedelics. MDMA affects the brain’s serotonin levels, causing users to feel intense sensations of euphoria and general well-being.

Chronic MDMA use can permanently change the brain’s production and use of serotonin, the neurotransmitter chemical responsible for reducing depressing and regulating anxiety, among other bodily functions. Because of this, long-term use is believed to raise risks of developing depression and leave users susceptible to stress, anxiety, and other emotional disturbances.

There is research about how drugs such as MDMA can become treatments for depression for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions. Studies are ongoing about the drug’s potential therapeutic benefit, and the effects of MDMA use still make it a dangerous one to take outside of a therapeutic setting.

Users risk high blood pressure, nausea, muscle tension, increased appetite, sweating, and high body temperatures. Failing to drink sufficient amounts of water can lead to dehydration. Heart failure, kidney failure, and irregular heartbeat are also problems that result from MDMA use.

Why Depression Often Follows MDMA Use

Depression that results from MDMA use is reportedly mild and can last one or two days. However, some people who use MDMA frequently or in large amounts report experiencing longer periods of depression. offers two possible physiological reasons why MDMA use can appear to cause depression. They also could experience negative moods and feel irritable or tired.

Temporary Depletion of Serotonin

MDMA’s effects on the brain cause it to release large amounts of serotonin, which could deplete the brain’s supply, and the brain will need time to restore what was lost. This period could be when users feel down in the dumps. Research shows this process can take anywhere from two days or a week or more.

Serotonin Receptors Take Longer to Regulate

The brain’s serotonin receptors down-regulate, or turn off, when they are flooded with too much serotonin. The brain’s ability to regulate the receptors helps it maintain balance. Once the body processes excess serotonin, receptors may turn on again or they may remain shut off for a time that could last for a few days to a few months, depending on the person and their situation.

Some MDMA Users Could Already Have Depression

Sometimes using substances bring out conditions that already existed before the person started using. That is also the case with MDMA. Some people may already struggle with depression but was not diagnosed or properly diagnosed before their substance use began. People in this group might be using ecstasy to medicate themselves as they manage the symptoms of their condition.

Dual diagnosis drug addiction treatment is most beneficial for substance users who also have a mental health disorder. It addresses drug use and the disorder at the same time to give users a chance at overcoming their dependence and addiction.

MDMA Addiction

Feelings of depression are also among the symptoms of ecstasy withdrawal. Those who have stopped taking the drug for a time may feel tempted to restart their ecstasy use just so they can keep negative moods, irritability, and fatigue away. Use also may be restarted to attempt to re-create the feelings that were experienced when using MDMA was new. Some will find that it is hard to achieve these effects because MDMA has exhausted the brain’s serotonin supply. The synthetic drug can only release the neurotransmitter that already exists; it cannot create more.

Increased, regular use of MDMA means users will build a high tolerance for the drug, which usually means they will use more of it to achieve the high they are seeking. This practice is dangerous for it can lead to MDMA-related emergencies, such as an accidental overdose, heat stroke, or an addiction that can be never-ending until professional drug treatment is received.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are no specific medical treatments for MDMA addiction. Some people who enter treatment for their addiction benefit from behavioral therapy. Treatment can also give recovering MDMA users life strategies to help them live without addictive substances.

End MDMA Addiction Today

If you or someone you know struggles with MDMA use or is experiencing depression along with their ecstasy use, contact Arete Recovery at 844-318-7500 today to learn about recovery options. A talk with one of our specialists can guide you to a new life of health, sobriety, and happiness.

Alcoholism and Depression: Understanding Comorbidity

Unless you struggle with an alcohol use disorder yourself, it can be almost impossible to understand the plight that addiction to alcohol actually is.

The same goes for people who struggle with depression or any other mental health condition.

It can be easy to speculate from an outsider’s perspective, but unless you are in the throes of these conditions, truly relating to the struggles they experience is infeasible. This is what can make treating alcoholism and depression extremely difficult. While these are two conditions on their own that are formidable in nature, combined, they can prove extremely hard to address.

What Is Comorbidity?

Comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional disease or disorders co-occurring with a primary disease or disorder. Essentially, it’s the combination of multiple disorders in tandem. This can spell disaster for an individual struggling with alcoholism and depression. Thanks to the combination of mental health disorders and an addiction disorder, both disorders must be treated for the patient to find relief. You cannot simply focus on one while ignoring the other. Some of the commonly seen mental health disorders that co-occur with addiction disorders are:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality Disorders

While many people may not be too familiar with the term “comorbidity”, many have heard of a “dual diagnosis” in relation to alcoholism and depression. Dual diagnosis is a popular term among addiction treatment. Many programs tout a superior approach to dual diagnosis treatment since it requires a specialized treatment approach as opposed to traditional drug or alcohol addiction treatment. In order to actually successfully treat alcoholism and depression, a full understanding of dual diagnosis is necessary.

What Does Dual Diagnosis Look Like?

Currently, in the United States alone, there are close to 21 million Americans suffering with substance addictions. Greater than the number of people who have cancer in all its forms combined, that works out to roughly 1 in every 10 people. Out of those 21 million, 7.9 million people are struggling with a dual diagnosis. This is clearly a massive issue among the substance abuse community. Having a comorbid disorder affects more than one-third of all addicts and alcoholics in the United States.

While, of course, alcoholism can cause subsequent depression as a result of the difficulties and negative outcomes that come hand in hand with alcoholism, alcoholism and depression as co-occurring disorders is a completely different situation. Alcoholism is naturally a depressant, a drug class that refers to substances that lower neurotransmission levels, which depresses or reduces arousal or stimulation in a variety of areas of the brain.

But if it is a true dual diagnosis, the signs and symptoms may look something like this:

  • Inability to maintain employment
  • Inability to maintain functional relationships
  • Legal problems
  • Financial issues
  • Extreme mood swings or inability to control their emotions

It is also worth noting that many times long before the addiction manifests, the depression or mood disorder will become apparent. Children and teens who have had struggles with depression are far more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction later in life than those who have not. Also, women are twice as likely to start drinking heavily if they have a history of depression and are more likely to drink more than men when they’re depressed.

Treatment for Alcohol and Depression

If a comorbid alcohol and depression disorder exists, then treatment should be started sooner than later. Studies have shown the direct correlation between dual diagnosis and suicidal tendencies. Those who suffer from alcoholism and depression are more likely to think about suicide, and typically, alcohol use reduces the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

Due to the dire nature of a dual diagnosis, professional intervention is necessary.

Proper treatment for alcohol and depression, or any other comorbid disorder, will include equal attention to both individual disorders as opposed to focusing solely on one or the other. Typically, care for a dual diagnosis will include:

  • Care by professionals trained in both addiction treatment and mental health disorders
  • Implementation of psychotherapeutic medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications
  • A supportive therapeutic approach that garners the patient’s self-esteem and confidence
  • A treatment plan that incorporates loved ones such as family, partners, and children into the therapy sessions

Treatment for alcohol and depression and other dual diagnoses that was sequential, or separate, led to a higher relapse rate for many patients. Reports have indicated that patients who received proper comorbid care saw higher success rates during the treatment process as well as in maintaining long-term recovery.

Struggling with A Dual Diagnosis?

Since the statistics regarding the number of addicts and alcoholics struggling with dual diagnosis are so high, it’s more than likely you or your loved one may be dealing with something more complicated than simply an addiction disorder. A comorbid disorder requires specialized attention and care coupled with an understanding atmosphere in order for the individual to find relief. That’s where Arete Recovery comes in.

At Arete Recovery, you’ll find yourself in the company of other people just like you struggling with a co-occurring disorder. Our staff is made up of highly trained professionals who are experts in successfully treating dual diagnosis cases. When you call, you’ll be connected to our knowledgeable addiction specialists who can get you the help you or a loved one may need. Upon arrival at the facility, you’ll undergo a preliminary assessment that will help our staff formulate an individualized treatment plan for you and your specific needs! No one needs to struggle with a comorbid disorder alone, call 844-318-7500 or contact us online anytime and start your journey to recovery now!