Compulsive Behaviors and Treatment


Compulsive behaviors are a common affliction that currently affects 2.2 million Americans nationwide. They’re defined through acts that are performed repetitively despite the fact they lead to no reward, and, in many cases, are harmful to the person who persistently commits them. These compulsions are most often associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. They can be anything: Washing, shopping, gambling, and even hoarding. This article will identify the symptoms, treatments and distinctions of compulsive behaviors.

So what are compulsive behaviors really? The reality is that everyone washes their hands and checks their locks, but when is it a problem? Compulsions are characterized by their usage as a temporary solution to counteract obsessive thoughts. Things like bedtime routines and religious traditions aren’t considered compulsions because they aren’t usually relied upon. People with compulsions center their behaviors on avoiding and defeating things that constantly bother them, which can be time consuming and is usually acknowledged as impractical. You might struggle with compulsive behaviors if you feel the need to randomly arrange things or recite words to reduce anxiety.

Sufferers of compulsive behaviors are categorized by their compulsions: Washers are afraid of dirt and contamination; checkers excessively check things they associate with danger like locked doors and ovens; doubters fear that they’ll be punished for not doing things right; counters are obsessed with order; and hoarders are afraid to rid of things they own. Many people don’t get help for these things because they’re embarrassed or ashamed of their symptoms. As a result, many of them end up trapped in a lot of senseless thinking that ultimately stockpiles stress. In order to get rid of these undesirable thoughts and emotions, those who suffer from compulsions must learn to identify and cope with their behavior in a healthy manner.

Those who believe they can overcome their compulsions on their own may consider self-help. Many sites will tell you to stop yourself and think about why you’re engaging in the behavior, then the challenge the logic behind it. For those who believe their problem is too serious to be overpowered by rational thought, many doctors and psychiatrists prescribe medications that target different parts of the brain. There’s also Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, which allows the person struggling with compulsive behaviors to develop faith in their mind’s ability to rationalize. Their unhealthy thought processes are challenged and they’re forced to confront the real problem that lies beneath their compulsions.

In deciding what steps to take in the fight against compulsive behaviors, one must evaluate the severity of the problem. Some hoarders may still be organized while others may have excessive amounts of clutter blocking off large parts of the house. When compulsive behaviors interfere with your life, that’s the time they need to be ridden of. People who decide to ignore this problem because it’s not physically debilitating don’t realize that this is rooted in the biology of the brain. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a sickness that can force people into unhealthy habits, some of which can burn through many resources -- monetary and otherwise. Stepping in to stop a compulsion is the first step to living a long, healthy and happy life.

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