Compulsive Behaviors: Everything You Need to Know

Basically, compulsive behavior is repeating a certain action over and over again. You feel driven to do these acts in order to relieve anxiety and to get rid of unwanted thoughts in your head. So compulsive behaviors are a result of intrusive thoughts and urge and a reaction to them. However, performing these compulsions brings no pleasure. They are just done to relieve anxiety and stress.

According to Wikipedia, there are about 50 million people in the world who may have a type or two of compulsive behavior disorder. Many people are secretive about it and some people don’t even know they have it. They think that these actions are normal and everybody does it. For example, checking if the oven is on or checking if the door is closed or not. Checking on things in general. We all do that right? However, some people do it more than others and this behavior is defined as compulsive.

The difference between Addiction and Compulsive behavior

Many people confuse compilation with addiction, a related but very different concept. Addiction is a persistent and intense need to use a drug or to do a certain behavior. The main difference between addiction and compulsive behavior is that addiction is the need to do something whereas compulsive behavior is the urge to do something.

Another difference between addiction and compulsion is that addiction gives pleasure to the individual. On the other hand, compulsion does not bring pleasure. A person with intrusive thoughts does it just to relieve his mind and get rid of anxiety.

Types of Compulsive Behaviors

There are various types of compulsive behavior including gambling, shopping, eating, and sex. You may think that these are normal activities. They are, but they can turn into compulsive behaviors if they are repeated regularly and compulsively.

There are also other behaviors like compulsive lying, talking, cleaning, and counting. A person who has compulsive behavior may have one or more than one behavior from the mentioned above or others. Here are more types of compulsive behavior:

OCD: obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a very common mental health disorder that comes in the form of intrusive thoughts, mental images, and urges. These unwanted feelings usually cause distress and anxiety to the individual so to get rid of them, one may perform compulsive behaviors. So basically our mind and body generate these behaviors to relieve anxiety.

If you have obsessions and compulsions that interfere with your daily life and take up a lot of your time, then you may have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

BFRBs: Body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) is a general term for a group of compulsive behaviors like biting your nails, picking your nose, and pulling your hair. These behaviors are uncontrollably done which makes them so uncomfortable and annoying. The inability to stop brings anxiety and stress to the person doing these behaviors. Over time, it may cause physical injuries or health issues.

Gambling: the term gambling ( also known as betting or gaming) is defined as risking money or stakes knowing that they may or may not lose it all. There are 3 elements of gambling:

  1. Something to bet with
  2. Risk or chance
  3. A prize or an award

Usually, the outcome of these bettings is immediate. That’s why it’s so addictive. People like immediate money and prizes. The term gambling may interfere with gaming. However, they are different from each other. Gaming is achieving outcome by skill whereas gambling is achieving outcome by chance or luck.

Gambling may turn someone’s life upside down when it’s done compulsively. It brings benefits sometimes but most of the time it is very risky and harmful to the gamblers.


Shopping: compulsive buying or shopping addiction is a mental health disorder and a state in which a person shops persistently and compulsively regardless of the many negative consequences. A compulsive buyer is someone who buys necessary things and unnecessary things just because they are aesthetically pleasing. Compulsive buyers shop as a coping mechanism for anxiety and stress. Unfortunately, they end up with financial and social issues.

Internet: Compulsive use of the internet is very common these days. Nowadays, we are living in the era of technology and advancement. Of course, the internet has a huge role in this success and development. The internet connects the whole world and we use it several times in our daily life. It facilitates almost everything in our life like shopping, learning, working, cooking, and connecting.

This world wide web is a great invention which can be used positively to help people or negatively. You can find everything and anything online, literally anything! That is why the internet may become an addiction or compulsive behavior. If someone uses the internet consistently and compulsively then his use of the internet becomes a negative one. In this case, the internet may be harmful to the individual.

Online Gaming: We all know how online gaming can be very addictive. They are very entertaining and take up a lot of our time. Recently there have been several updates in graphics, sound, and the story. These updates made online games more realistic and more fun to play.

Unfortunately, many people spend most of their time playing these games. Of course, this affects their daily life and complicates their relationships with their family, friends, and everyone in general.

Spending hours and hours in a closed room facing a screen hurts your eyes, body, and brain. So this compulsive behavior does not only hurt the individual mentally but also physically. Like all other compulsive behaviors, the person performing the compulsion does not care about the consequences. He or she is just happy to be playing these games. They are just happy to be part of this magical world.

Sex: sex addiction is a term that describes those who engage compulsively in sexual activities. Regardless of the negative consequences, they still participate in these sexual activities to have the pleasure they need to get rid of stress, depression, and anxiety. These sexual acts result in harming the person doing it mentally and physically. It also leaves no room for new relationships and damages their current relationships with family, friends, and partners.

Eating: This type of compulsive behavior is called Binge Eating Disorder. It leads to consuming large amounts of food uncontrollably and the inability to stop. Some people binge eat large amounts of food in a short time and feel regret and shame afterward. Unfortunately, this is something that they do without thinking at that moment. They do it after having certain obsessions about their life, their body image, and their weight. Some people binge eat because they are bored or lonely or even for no conscious reason at all.

Usually, binge eating is done when being alone so one can see the enormous amount of food and judge them. Those people are always thinking about this problem and about a good solution that fits their body and personality. Unfortunately, they fail every single time and this increases their anxiety, their anxiety leads to binge eating, and the whole cycle is repeated.


Exercise: Well, this time is about exercising too much. What could be wrong with that? Excess in anything is always dangerous and unwanted. Exercising regularly is very good for your body, especially your body shape and your heart. It is very healthy to be active but when things get out of control, this is when we start to get concerned.

Excessive exercising may be linked to an eating disorder. For example, binge eating disorder brings regret and shame which leads the individual to exercise excessively to burn these calories. Doing so is very dangerous because you are forcing your body to act beyond its ability. It will also leave your body to soar the next day which makes you unable to function properly throughout the day.

How to Manage and Treat Compulsive Behaviors:

The first thing to do is to take a serious decision that you are capable of treating yourself. By making a decision you will have some control over your actions. This alone may help a little but using medication will make a difference.

How is OCD treated?

If you have doubts about having OCD, don’t worry at all. Luckily, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be treated with two types of treatments:

Psychological treatment: believing in yourself and trying to fight your obsessions and compulsions make a difference in the overall process of healing. As I mentioned before, competence and stamina are key in the healing process.

Medications: the other treatment is medication. It helps balance certain chemicals in the brain and makes it stable.

With the help of psychological therapy and medication combined, you will be able to conquer your unwanted thoughts, images, and behaviors. You will be able to heal from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

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