How Can I Recognize Compulsions?

Our compulsions are the behaviors we feel we are unable to control. They can be tied to our addictions, as well as to our anxiety and other mental health issues such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Sometimes we are conscious of our compulsions. Other times we have yet to become conscious of them and are engaging in them without being aware of them. How do we recognize our compulsions in order to heal from them?

The first step is to become more mindful of our thoughts and behaviors on a daily basis. Start journaling or taking notes about the behaviors that you are regularly taking part in. Notice the ones that feel outside of your control, that you feel powerless to stop. They might include abusing substances, engaging in risky sexual behaviors, self-harming behaviors such as cutting, or other compulsions such as stealing or hoarding. Sometimes when we aren’t conscious of our compulsive behaviors, it is because we’re under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other substances. Sometimes we are unconscious of them simply because we don’t want to face the truth of them. We’re afraid of what it will mean for us if deal with the reality of them – that we will have to ask for help, that we will have to make difficult changes, that we won’t be able to avoid the truth anymore. When we aren’t conscious of our compulsions, they can be silently taking over our lives without our even being aware of them. Once we start to monitor our behaviors with more mindfulness, we can start to see the ways in which we’ve been directing our energy in unhealthy ways and fueling our addictions.

Another way to become conscious of our compulsions is to pay more attention to the emotional responses we have to our behaviors. When we engage in certain behaviors, how do they make us feel? Are we filled with anxiety? Do we feel guilty? Do we feel embarrassed or ashamed? Do we try to hide them from other people? Do we keep them a secret? Do we avoid talking about them or even facing them within ourselves? Have we tried to stop time and time again? Do we expend considerable energy trying to quit? Do we feel disappointment and remorse every time we can’t stop? These emotions can be cues that our behaviors are forms of compulsions that require our energy and attention to free ourselves from.

Treatment at Riverside includes mindfulness-based relapse prevention, as well as therapy and recovery meetings. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.

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