Overcoming Compulsive behaviors

What are compulsive behaviors?

Compulsive behaviors are any behaviors that become addictive because they serve a function that is not necessarily related to the behavior. In other words, a compulsive behavior is a counterfeit way of trying to meet a real need. Some examples of behaviors that can become compulsive include pornography use, masturbation, eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, compulsive overeating, and cutting or burning oneself. Compulsive behaviors usually work perfectly -- for about five minutes. Then, you feel awful about yourself, and the real need still has not been met.

The chutes and ladders approach

In your efforts to overcome your compulsive behavior, you may take the "Chutes and Ladders" perspective. Remember when you played Chutes and Ladders as a child? It would take you a long time to climb the board, so that you were almost at the top. Then, you'd land on a "chute" that would take you all the way to the bottom of the board -- right back to where you started. You may be inclined to look at your compulsive behavior in this way. You work hard to just stop doing it, and you may feel that you've made a lot of progress. Then you slip up, and it feels like you're right back where you started. The whole process becomes so discouraging that you begin to doubt that you'll ever be able to change.

The spiral model of recovery

Now consider a different perspective. Imagine that you're traveling on a spiral. As you go along, you lapse into your compulsive behavior. You're disappointed in yourself, but you also now have the opportunity to analyze your lapse and figure out what went wrong. What was really going on? What was the real need that you tried to meet in this counterfeit way? How, in the future, might you meet this need in a healthier and more effective way? As you travel on around your spiral, you may lapse a number of times. If, though, you are able to use each lapse as a way to learn about yourself and plan for more effectively meeting your needs, your "need" for the compulsive behavior will decrease.

Recovery Programs

Overcoming Compulsive Behaviors -- A recovery program designed by Counseling Center therapists.

Success plan for maintaining progress during semester breaks or off-track semesters.

LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program -- Meeting Schedule

Online Resources

Overcoming Pornography -- A site sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

What (and What Not) to Say to Someone Struggling with Pornography