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Cognitive Dissonance and Behavioral Disorders and Possible Remedies

17 August, 2022

Cognitive dissonance is not a disorder. It’s part of normal human behavior, where people try to rationalize two competing ideas, beliefs, or behaviors. The definition of cognitive dissonance is a mental conflict resulting from simultaneously holding two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. Since our minds tend to avoid such contradictions, we tend to change our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to eliminate the dissonance and achieve internal consistency.

Cognitive dissonance is at the core of behavioral disorders and (milder) bad habits; it is also a source of first-world problems, things that cause anxiety and depression. Cognitive dissonance occurs when someone simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values; accepts new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. 

Cognitive dissonance can be uncomfortable for people to deal with (as anyone who has tried to quit smoking can attest to). Still, people are forced to deal with it anyway whenever they interact with other human beings.

What Causes Cognitive Dissonance?

Cognitive Dissonance is the term used to describe the internal conflict when a person attempts to rationalize two conflicting ideas, beliefs, or behaviors. Cognitive dissonance can be positive or negative, depending on the individual’s situation. For example, suppose you love your job and get paid very well for doing it. However, because of the long hours and demanding schedule, you don’t have much time left over to spend with your family. You’re faced with cognitive dissonance because you are happy in one area of your life but miserable in another area.

Forced Compliance

One way people deal with cognitive dissonance is by changing their beliefs or actions to match what they think others want them to do or believe. This is known as “forced compliance.” For example, suppose someone tells you that a certain brand of car is better than any other type of car available on the market today. In that case, you might change your mind about what kind of car you want even though doing so creates cognitive dissonance within yourself. In this case, your desire not to appear foolish or ignorant may outweigh the feeling of discomfort created by making an unpopular choice.

New Information

Cognitive dissonance can occur when we receive new information that contradicts our existing beliefs. If you have ever been in an abusive relationship, for instance, then you may have experienced cognitive dissonance when someone tells you that the abuse is not your fault. This new information challenges your belief that the abuse was caused by something wrong with you rather than your partner’s behavior.

Moral Disagreement

When people have different moral standards. For example, if people have different opinions about abortion.


When people are treated differently based on their race or gender even though they are equally capable of doing the same job as someone else who was treated better than them because they weren’t treated equally based on their race or gender even though they were equally capable of doing the same job as someone else who was treated better than them because they weren’t treated equally

Decisions and Commitments

Cognitive dissonance can arise in many situations where people must make decisions and act on them. For example, buying an expensive item such as a car may lead someone to justify the purchase by convincing themselves that it was worth the money because they saved so much on gas mileage compared to their old car. This justification helps reduce their feelings of guilt from spending so much money on something they don’t need.

In contrast, if someone buys an expensive item only to find out later that it doesn’t work as advertised, the buyer may feel cognitive dissonance. The buyer must then decide whether he wants to keep the item and continue justifying his purchase or return it for his money back.

Personal Relationships

Cognitive dissonance can occur in long-term relationships when partners hold opposing views on important issues such as child-rearing and money management. For example, if one partner wants to buy a new car but the other does not because he thinks it is too expensive, cognitive dissonance occurs when the first partner tries to convince the second to buy the car by saying that buying it would be good for their family and would make them happy. In reality, however, the second partner will remain unhappy about spending so much money on a new car because he believes it is wrong for him to spend so much on something that does not benefit them directly.

How Does Cognitive Dissonance Lead To Behavioral Disorders?

When a person experiences cognitive dissonance, they begin to feel uncomfortable and stressed because they have conflicting thoughts. This causes them to question their beliefs and rethink their actions. The resulting anxiety causes them to do whatever it takes to eliminate the conflict so that they can feel comfortable again.

People who have experienced trauma or abuse often have trouble dealing with stress and anxiety because they constantly attempt to resolve cognitive dissonance. This can lead them to addiction problems and other behavioral disorders like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety disorders, depression, and suicide attempts.

What Are Some Treatments Or Remedies For Cognitive Dissonance?

When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to change one’s attitudes or behaviors, the person might also try to minimize the importance of any aspect of the situation causing the dissonance.


The most popular remedy for cognitive dissonance is rationalization – justifying an idea or belief by relying on logic and evidence. This is why many people with strong religious beliefs often have arguments ready to support them when others challenge them.


Another remedy for cognitive dissonance is compartmentalization – separating thoughts and feelings into different compartments of your mind, so they don’t conflict with each other (e.g., separating work and personal life). Most people do this naturally and automatically because their brains cannot simultaneously handle too many conflicting thoughts!

Cognitive Restructuring

In this therapy method, people identify their negative thoughts and beliefs and challenge their validity. For example, if you hate your job because you think it’s boring and pointless, but you know that there are benefits to it (like a stable salary), then you could challenge this belief by examining its validity. You could ask yourself questions like, “If it’s so boring and pointless, why do I keep doing it?” or “What would happen if I quit?”

Cognitive Therapy

This technique focuses on changing how you think about things rather than changing how you feel about them (emotionally). For example, if someone feels guilty about cheating on their spouse but doesn’t want to stop cheating because they love the thrill of it too much, cognitive therapy might help work through some of those thoughts and feelings.