Compulsions and Addictions

All human beings function better when they are given just the right amount of stimulation. When they are under-stimulated, people tend to create more stimulation for themselves. When they are over-stimulated, people tend to withdraw. For highly sensitive people, under-stimulation and over-stimulation occur more frequently and intensely than they do for others. Although it is perfectly normal to correct these feelings of discomfort in moderation, highly sensitive people with obsessive personalities tend to take their correction methods to unhealthy extremes that can turn voluntary correction methods into involuntary addictions.

Highly sensitive people with obsessive personalities (not limited to OCPD) should be more mindful about correcting their feelings of discomfort in moderation in order to prevent the development of unpleasant compulsions and addictions.

Stress is a very common feeling of discomfort experienced by highly sensitive people. In attempt to correct this feeling of discomfort, a lot of sensitive people withdraw from the overwhelming world.

When a person decides to crawl into his comfortable bed and go to sleep in response to stress, his brain records the action. If the stress returns at another time in the future and the exact same behaviour is repeated, his brain makes an even stronger association between the stress and the act of going to bed. After much repetition, the association becomes so strong that going to bed becomes an automatic response to stress. The person may then find that, whenever stress comes his way, all of a sudden he feels so incredibly sleepy and disinterested in social interaction that the only thing he wants to do is go to bed.

People who have developed unhealthy compulsions such as this one must create new neural pathways in their brain or access other, less frequently used pathways. They must resist the urge to repeat their unwanted behaviours and try to practice healthier correction methods instead.

People with obsessive personalities tend to have an extensive list of not-so-good compulsions and addictions. Here are some of the common ones:

  • Facial tics, twitching, leg shaking, stretching, knuckle cracking, etc.
  • Doubt, overchecking
  • Isolation, oversleeping, lethargy
  • Depression, complaining, negativity
  • Self-deprecation, guilt, shame
  • Escapism, daydreaming, suicidal thinking
  • Workaholism
  • Intellectualization, overthinking
  • Overeating, eating too little
  • Impractical spending (time and money)
  • Sex, drugs, alcohol

As you can see from the list above, people can even become addicted to feeling certain emotions.

SO WHAT NOW?

HOW TO BREAK COMPULSIONS AND ADDICTIONS (OBSESSIVES):
Understand that it is normal to experience discomfort. Ups and downs are just normal parts of a healthy human life. When these feelings of discomfort come your way, do not be afraid to experience them. Instead of trying to correct or avoid it, feel the discomfort and give it the time it needs to pass. For psychomotor compulsions like facial tics and leg shaking, seat yourself in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and try to feel the discomfort in your body without correcting it. The intensity of your urge to repeat your compulsions and addictions will decrease as you give in to them less frequently.

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4 thoughts on “Compulsions and Addictions

  1. charly says:

    so true

  2. Good tips, for those with or without OCPD. We all form these little habits.

  3. Nick says:

    I think the difference between the OCPD person and a non-OCPDer is that the OCPD person does not realize that they have an addiction or a compulsion and they believe that they are acting properly and prudently. It is therefore harder to help an OCPD person because, unlike the non-OCPDer, they do not believe that they are doing anything wrong. For example, my ex-wife was very conscious of table manners and etiquette, and she made a big deal if the kids or I did not “conform” to her high standards. Yet, she slurped her soup quite noisily from the bowl and without using her spoon. When the kids told her that it was not “socially correct” and questioned her many other “regulations”, she vigorously defended her slurping action and discounted their quite valid reasoning. Another example has to do with time management. The OCPD person will spend hours on activities that most of us would complete in much shorter amount of time (e.g., writing a simple paragraph). Yet, when it was “suggested” to my ex-wife to change her habit pattern in a positive way that would benefit the family (e.g., fold cardboard garbage in half to make more room in the recycling bag, she refused to “take the 30 seconds” to add that task to her list because it would waste her time). At bottom, I believe that the way that an OCPD acts and reacts towards the world around them is complex and interrelated (i.e., I tried to demonstrate the intersection of compulsions, obsessions, all-or-nothing thinking, striving for perfection and perceiving self as perfect, not being tolerant of others, and not accepting constructive criticism or valid suggestions from others).

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thank-you; this is very helpful :)

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