Compulsive behaviors are actions someone feels they must do, even if they don’t want to. These can be both mental and physical actions. People with OCD often have compulsions, which are rituals or behaviors that they perform to relieve their anxiety.
Compulsions can include things like washing your hands over and over, counting or organizing things, or checking that the door is locked multiple times. People with OCD often know that compulsions are irrational, but they feel they have to do them anyway.
Compulsive behaviors can be time-consuming and interfere with everyday life, but treatment options are available. With professional help, it is possible to break the cycle of OCD and live a healthy life.
What is compulsive behavior?
Compulsive behavior is any behavior that a person feels they cannot control. It is often repetitive and can be harmful to the individual. Compulsive behavior can be difficult to stop because it is often motivated by anxiety or fear.
Examples of compulsive behavior
Compulsive behavior can take many forms. Some people need to hoard things, while others engage in ritualistic behaviors such as compulsive hand-washing or spending a great deal of time organizing things. Other common examples of compulsions include:
-Checking locks, appliances, and other things multiple times
-Excessive neatness and organization
-Obsessive thoughts about orderliness
-Repeating routine activities multiple times
-Avoiding people or places
- Skin picking
- Causes of compulsive behavior
- There are many different causes of compulsive behavior. In some cases, it may be caused by a medical condition. In other cases, it may be due to a mental health disorder. In other cases, it may result from a person’s environment or upbringing. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
- Much scientific evidence suggests that genetics plays a role in the development of OCD. Studies of twins (both identical and fraternal) have found that if one twin has OCD, the other twin is more likely to have OCD. This risk is even higher in identical twins, who share 100% of their genes.
Similarly, children who have a parent or sibling with OCD are more likely to develop the disorder themselves. While the specific genes that may be involved in the development of OCD are not yet known, researchers are actively working to identify them. Multiple genes, rather than just one, are believed to be involved in developing OCD.
There isn’t one specific cause of compulsive behavior. Instead, it’s thought to result from environmental and biological factors.
It may be that people who are prone to compulsions are more sensitive to environmental triggers, such as stress or change. For example, people with OCD may be more likely to have a parent or close family member with the condition.
Biological factors may also play a role. For example, certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, are thought to be involved in mood and anxiety disorders. There may also be an imbalance of certain brain chemicals in people with OCD.
How to stop compulsive behavior
If you have a problem with compulsive behavior, the first step is identifying the triggers that cause your urges. Once you know what triggers your urges, you can avoid those situations. It would help if you also tried to find healthy coping mechanisms to deal with your urge to engage in compulsive behavior.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term therapy that can treat various mental health conditions, including OCD.
CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interconnected. It focuses on helping people identify and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors that may be contributing to their OCD.
CBT typically involves working with a therapist in weekly sessions. Sessions typically last 60-90 minutes, and the length of treatment varies depending on the individual’s needs.
Research has shown that CBT can be an effective treatment for OCD. A 2017 study found that CBT was more effective than medication in reducing OCD symptoms.
If you’re interested in finding a CBT therapist, you can search for one in your area through the American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator tool.
Exposure and response prevention
Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on helping people manage their anxiety by facing their fears.
ERP therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to the situations, objects, or activities that make you anxious. You’ll work with your therapist to develop a hierarchy of anxiety-provoking situations, starting with the least anxiety-provoking and working up to the most anxiety-provoking.
You’ll then work through the hierarchy, starting with the least anxiety-provoking situation. Once you can manage your anxiety in that situation, you’ll move on to the next situation on the hierarchy.
ERP therapy can be an effective treatment for OCD. A 2017 study found that exposure and response prevention was more effective than medication for treating OCD.
Compulsive behavior can be treated with medication. The most common medication used to treat compulsive behavior is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs are a type of antidepressant that works by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in mood and emotions.
Other types of medication that may be used to treat compulsive behavior include antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and anticonvulsants.
Compulsive behavior can also be treated with therapy. The most common therapy used to treat compulsive behavior is called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT works by helping people to change the thoughts and behaviors that are associated with their compulsions.
Compulsive behavior can be difficult to live with, but it is important to remember that it is treatable. If you or someone you know is struggling with compulsive behavior, many resources are available to help.
If you think you may be engaging in compulsive behavior, the best thing you can do is reach out for help. Many effective treatments are available, so don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to get started on a treatment plan.