Can Aversion Therapy Help You?

If you are having woes such as addiction, fears, or other problems, you may need to seek help. However, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to turn to, especially during a pandemic. While some people may consider business ventures, even with COVID happening, you may struggle with really pushing forward, especially as an addict.

One method you may consider is aversion therapy. It’s an old, albeit controversial, way to seek help, and in this post, we will take a look at it.

aversion therapy

What is Aversion Therapy?

Aversion therapy has a simple concept, and that is making you associate your stimulus with something negative.

In other words, every time you see that stimulus, you start to think of something uncomfortable, and it will cause you to avoid that stimulus in the future.

It’s commonly used in addiction. When you are trying to kick the habit of drinking alcohol, associating alcohol with something that makes you uncomfortable may be an excellent way for you to avoid it in the future.

With that said, aversion therapy is used a lot more than just drug addiction.

How it Works for Addicts

Addiction can end up destroying someone’s life, and it’s not easy to quit. Therapy is one such solution, and aversion therapy may help with this.

How does it work? Drugs tend to be used when you’re trying to treat your addiction. For example, the drug naltrexone may reduce your alcohol cravings, while the drug disufiram works by creating a hangover.

Hangovers happen when you drink a lot, but when you’re an alcoholic, it is hard for your to achieve it. Disufiram can make a hangover much worse as well, and you will start to associate your drinking with severe hangovers, making you drink less.

What if you don’t want to try drugs? That’s fair. Luckily, there are other ways to have aversion therapy. Some therapists may administer electric shocks, which will shock you when you drink.

If that keeps happening, you may start to imagine yourself being electrocuted every time you take a drug.

The Problems With That

Of course, aversion therapy has its issues. Using drugs may cause side effects, and taking them when you are drinking may make you feel ill. Many of these drugs can’t be taken safely until sobriety, which can end up being counterproductive.

Aversion therapy may also not be that effective. Relapse rates tend to be high, as once the addict is at home by themselves, there is no risk of electric shock.

When it comes to treating addiction, many therapists do prefer cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help break the link between addictive thoughts and actions.

Not to mention, using electric shocks is an outdated form of therapy, and you may not be able to find any therapist who is willing to do that to you.

What About Compulsions?

If you bite your nails, pick at your skin, or do something similar, can aversion therapy work?

First, let’s see how aversion therapy works for these habits. It tends to involve a negative side effect that centers around the bad behavior. If you bite your nails. The therapist may put something that tastes bad on your nails. Or, they may shock you.

It does seem that aversion therapy is good for nail biting, but there is not much research as to other behaviors, like pulling one’s hair.

The Problems

While aversion therapy may help you, there are many therapist who believe that using a painful or uncomfortable stimulus is not the best first move, and that cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy may the best solution for you.

The Alternatives

There are several alternatives to exposure therapy.


While aversion therapy can involve drugs, it involves drugs designed to make you feel bad.

There are other drugs you can take that can help with withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is the reason why many will relapse, and sometimes, complete detox can have fatal symptoms.

If you worry you will be addicted to these drugs instead of what you were originally addicted to, don’t be.

These drugs are professionally monitored and there is a weaning process once you are recovering. The drugs will soon leave your system without any cravings, and you’ll be glad you took them when all is said and done.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This is a popular type of therapy, as it works with so many disorders. It teaches you about thoughts and behaviors that cause your issues.

With addiction, certain thoughts you have can make it likely that you start craving the drug you’re trying to wean yourself from.

Behaviors you do can also make it more likely.

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you to break the link between unhelpful thoughts and behaviors and actions.

Exposure Therapy

This is the opposite of aversion therapy. Instead of avoiding the issue, you learn how to be exposed to it with time.

For an addict, it may involve slow exposure to possible triggers while learning how to avoid the cravings when you are exposed to them.

Exposure therapy is great for fears. If you are afraid of spiders, your therapist may show you pictures, and then it ends with you allowing a tarantula to crawl on your skin.


Going to a rehabilitation center may be an ideal treatment for your addiction if it’s extreme enough. Depending on where you live, this may be an expensive option, though there are ways for your insurance to cover it. In rehab, you will be detoxed, and you will spend all your time trying to heal from your addiction and avoid relapse whenever possible.

In Conclusion

Aversion therapy is a bit outdated, and it may not work for you.

However, everyone is different. There are some who may respond to aversion therapy and it can end up treating their addiction. A good therapist will try many different types of therapy in order to find the one that works the best for you.

If you want to see if aversion therapy can help you, click here and see if there are any therapists in your area who will offer it.

About the Author: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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