Zaps help overcome cravings and prevent relapse

Why are habits — even the smallest ones — so incredibly tough to break? Why is it a constant uphill struggle?

People tell you to “shrug off the craving… say no… wait it out”. And sometimes you do manage. Through hard work, determination and lots of self-sacrifice, you finally break free of a habit that has been plaguing you for as long as you care to remember.

You’re sure you will never look back.

You’re positive you’ll never relapse.

But then, something happens.

It could be something major like a loss or breakup; or something really small like a bad day at work aggravated by a busted tire.

And suddenly, your cravings are back, stronger than ever.

You think, “I have this under control. One little slip won’t bring it back”.

But before you know it, your habit has caught up with you again, more aggressively than ever before.

It happens more often than we’d like to think.

It happens because we’re human, and because habits prey on our greatest weaknesses.

Habits are like a virus — they use our own body and mind against us.

And there’s no escape unless you bring out the heavy artillery.

Lab test: Electric jolts overcome cravings in rats in just 7 sessions

In a study (Lovibond, 1963) from the University of Adelaide, Australia, researchers wanted to test the effect of aversion conditioning on craving in rats.

First, they tested how long it took rats to run the length of a box towards an item they had been made to crave. During this phase, each of the rats would take less than 3 seconds to complete the task.

For the conditioning phase, the researchers split up the rats into four groups, assigning each group a different variation of aversion treatment.

Each rat was once again placed into the box, but this time given a harmless electric jolt upon touching the target object.

The goal was to condition the rats to overcome their impulses and stay away from the objects they craved.

Within just 7 sessions, some rats were completely avoiding the target object, even though they had previously craved it.

What’s more, it only took an average of 13 sessions to condition 50% of the rats to stay completely clear of the target object.

Conditioning through electric jolts works for people too!

The study mentioned above deals with how harmless electric jolts can condition rats to stay away from an object they previously craved.

Before conditioning, these rats would race towards the desired object in less than 3 seconds. After the conditioning process, they would stay in the box for up to 2 minutes without approaching the target object.

Aversion conditioning works. The great news is that it has been proven to work for people too.

It can effectively help people break habits, overcome cravings and regain control over compulsive behavior.

In fact, there are many studies proving the effectiveness of these little jolts in overcoming compulsive behavior, as well as persistent habits such as nail biting, smoking, alcoholism, overeating, and gambling.


Lovibond, S. (1963, 12). Intermittent reinforcement in behaviour therapy. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 1(2-4), 127-132. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(63)90015-9


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