What Are Compulsions?
- Highly repetitive patterns of thinking or behaving.
- Difficult for the individual to control even when they want to. They often recognise the futility of their compulsive patterns, but feel helpless to change them.
- Often designed to reduce some form of anxiety.
- Practised within a rigid framework of rules such as a specific time, place or order.
- The benefits are short-lived so the pattern has to be repeated.
- Not an indication of mental illness in themselves, although they can cross the line and become a disorder, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, or can develop into an addiction.
- A means of helping the individual to avoid some aspect of reality which is painful or unacceptable to them.
What Do Compulsions Look Like?
Compulsions can come in many forms. Most of us probably practise them on a minor level without even being aware of it, for example, always sitting in the same chair, eating our food in a particular order or following the same route. Because almost everyone does this type of thing it doesn't stand out. It only becomes visible and intrusive when the person cannot resist the impulse to obey the urge. Then it frequently shows up as patterns of:
Who Can Be Affected By Compulsions?
- Find it difficult to be flexible
- Have a drive for perfection
- Need to control
- Experience regular self-doubt.
- Can't trust their own choices and decisions.
- Are constantly searching for ways to feel "right".
- Struggle with an exaggerated sense of guilt and the need to make amends.
How Can You Help?
- Be patient. Your frustration or anger will only reinforce their negative thoughts and feelings.
- Don't try to force them to stop. The compulsion will simply be diverted into a new way of being expressed.
- Don't try to appeal to their sense of logic. The person is usually fully aware that what they are doing is illogical and this heightens their sense of powerlessness.
- Do let them know that you are aware when they are performing their ritual. Name it as such. Ignoring it can be seen as acceptance.
- Listen as often and for as long as you are able.
For help with compulsions, contact Alli at Point Of Change Counselling and make an appointment.