What Is Aversive Conditioning In Psychology?

Do you have a nasty habit that you simply can’t seem to break? In this post, we will define what is aversive conditioning in psychology and provide several examples of this psychological topic to help you understand it better.

Smoking, nail-biting, eating disorders, alcohol addiction, and drug misuse are all prevalent addictive behaviors that people of all ages want to break free from. Some people may break these behaviors with merely a strong will, but for many others, quitting an addictive activity can be difficult.

People have tried many methods to break away from their addictions. If you’ve tried the majority of the more typical ways and found them useless, there are some alternative viable solutions to explore. Aversion treatment is one of these alternatives.

What Is Aversive Conditioning In Psychology?

Aversion therapy is a sort of behavioral therapeutic intervention that pairs undesired behaviors. Poor habits, or self-destructive tendencies with an unpleasant stimulus to eradicate them. This therapy method is on the idea that one learns an unpleasant behavior. It can unlearn with correct ‘conditioning’. Aversion treatment instructs the patient’s brain to link an undesirable habit with something unpleasant to reverse the positive association and create an aversion to that behavior.

Aversion behavior therapy works by instilling in a person a strong hate or repulsion for undesirable conduct and associating it with an unpleasant stimulus. To make this link, the stimulus’s impact must come immediately or shortly after the unpleasant action.

What Is an Aversive Stimulus?

As a consequence, an aversive stimulus is an unpleasant experience that reduces the likelihood of an action. However, an unpleasant stimulus may enhance the likelihood of behavior when it eliminates as a result, acting as negative reinforcement.

Uses Of Aversion Therapy

Aversion treatment, also known as aversive conditioning or counterconditioning, was developed in the early 1920s. It typically uses to treat addictive behavior.

Aversion treatment has several uses, including

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking (including vaping or e-cigarettes) 
  • Abuse of substances
  • Gambling
  • Problems with aggression and rage
  • Inappropriate behavior and sexual crimes
  • Overeating

Aversive Conditioning Examples

  • Onychophagia, or nail biting, is one of the numerous undesirable behaviors that can be addressed with the unpleasant conditioning approach of unlearning. A foul- or bitter-tasting liquid is administered to the nails of a frequent nail-biter in this scenario. As a result, the person tastes it every time he puts his hand to his lips. The unpleasant experience helps in the reduction of nail-biting, which is an undesirable activity in this circumstance.
  • A nausea-inducing substance is given to alcohol during aversive conditioning for alcoholics. The painful experience that follows diminishes the good sentiments linked with drinking. Over time, even the notion of drinking alcohol makes the individual queasy, and he is thus able to break the habit.
  • Aversive therapy for eating disorders is beneficial. This treatment shows us that the sensations we connect with food are crucial and that we should be more attentive to what we eat and when we consume it, paying attention to the sentiments that cause bingeing and overeating. It also encourages us to stop connecting food with rewards and to abandon the routines that lead us to view food as a substitute for love, company, and safety. Overeating, in the end, may create many of the same issues as alcohol and drugs, and its hazards should not be underestimated.

What Is Covert Sensitization Therapy?

Covert sensitization is a behavioral treatment that intends to reduce addictive behavior. Covert sensitization is based on classical conditioning principles and includes a person imagining an unpleasant link between the addictive behavior and an unpleasant stimulus (e.g. the pain created by an electric shock). For example, if someone was utilizing covert sensitization to treat problematic gambling, they would envision themselves gambling and then imagining a highly painful outcome, such as an acute electric shock, as vividly as they could. They should lose the impulse to gamble if they keep this link in their minds.

Rubber Band Aversion Therapy

The rubber band uses in aversion therapy to reduce obsessional thinking and obsessive behaviors. This strategy was not only unsuccessful in decreasing obsessional thinking, but it significantly increased the obsessive thoughts of both patients. The pain from the rubber band break became a trigger to concentrate on the unwanted ideas some more.

Aversion Therapy Techniques

Aversion therapy comes in a variety of forms, including


When a person drinks or merely smells alcohol, medications like Antabuse produce nausea and/or vomiting. This is an emetic treatment.


Chemicals that taste or smell disagreeable, such as those contained in nail polish, serve to minimize nail-biting habits.

Electrical Aversion Treatment (EAT)

EAT is one of the more contentious types of aversion therapy. It uses electrical shocks to cause pain, which violates ethical rules and blurs the boundary between healing and torture. Shocks deliver through the arm, leg, or even the genitals.

Verbal and Visual Aversion Therapy

Negative verbal recommendations occur while the client imagines or thinks about the desirable behavior.

Is Aversion Therapy Useful?

Aversion treatment can be helpful, but its effectiveness is dependent on several conditions, most notably the availability of a follow-up program. A follow-up program can aid in relapse prevention and extend the longevity of treatment by providing long-term benefits.

The type of behavior to be corrected also influences the success of aversion treatment, as some behaviors are more effective than others. Another aspect is the type of stimulus utilized in treatment, as electric shocks are less effective than nausea-inducing drugs.

The Ending Note

What is aversive conditioning in psychology? Aversion treatment is a type of behavioral therapy in which an aversion or negative stimulus creates an undesirable behavior or habit. It commonly uses in cases of addiction. This sort of therapy is ineffective, and harmful side effects such as humiliation, anxiety, and even PTSD can emerge.

If you’re thinking about aversion therapy for an unpleasant behavior or habit, it’s critical to contact a certified mental health practitioner who can assist you. It may also be beneficial to consult with your healthcare professional, since your medical history may influence whether this sort of therapy is appropriate for you. In conclusion, If aversion therapy is not for you, several different forms of therapy can help you live a happy life.

We hope that you find “What Is Aversive Conditioning In Psychology?” interesting.

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