Ask the Experts

Substitute Good Habits For Bad

Learn to squash the “co-morbid” habits like smoking and drinking that plague many adults with ADD/LD.

Foster healty habits and kick the bad, like booze
Foster healty habits and kick the bad, like booze

Many patients with attention deficit disorder often have an associated addictive personality. We see a great number of individuals who have “co-morbid” issues of smoking or drinking alcohol too much. Even such behaviors as gambling to excess can be associated with attention deficit disorder. How do you deal with a bad habit that is impairing your health?

One of the fundamental techniques of behavior modification is habit substitution.

If health professionals can substitute a healthy or positive behavior habit for one that is destructive, it is virtually impossible to continue the destructive habit. For example, if you believe that the excitement and danger of using illicit drugs is what draws the person with ADD, it might be a good idea to substitute a less negative but also exciting activity – such as skydiving.

If you incorporate an exercise regimen as a habit that becomes ultimately ingrained, it then becomes virtually impossible to continue smoking or drinking to excess. As anyone who works out or exercises on a frequent basis knows, it is very unpleasant (and unlikely) to work out in an aerobic fashion, with resistance training, and then reach for a cigarette or cigar. Likewise, someone who is very health conscious and physically fit would be unlikely to drink to excess, as the two behaviors and habits are contradictory.

(From Adult ADD: The Complete Handbook, by David B. Sudderth, M.D. and Joseph Kandel, M.D.)