To suppress, or not to suppress? : That is repression: Controlling intrusive thoughts in addictive behaviour
Research to understand how individuals cope with intrusive negative or threatening thoughts suggests a variety of different cognitive strategies aimed at thought control. In this review, two of these strategies – thought suppression and repressive coping – are discussed in the context of addictive behaviour. Thought suppression involves conscious, volitional attempts to expel a thought from awareness, whereas repressive coping, which involves the avoidance of thoughts without the corresponding conscious intention, appears to be a far more automated process. Whilst there has been an emerging body of research exploring the role of thought suppres- sion in addictive behaviour, there remains a dearth of research which has considered the role of repressive coping in the development of, and recovery from, addiction. Based on a review of the literature, and a discussion of the supposed mechanisms which underpin these strategies for exercising mental control, a conceptual model is proposed which posits a potential common mechanism. This model makes a number of predictions which require exploration in future research to fully understand the cognitive strategies utilised by individuals to control intrusive thoughts related to their addictive behaviour.