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Compulsive Behaviors

Compulsive behavior is an umbrella term for a wide range of repetitive behaviors that can eventually become problematic or life-debilitating. While most of us think of addictive behaviors in the terms of drug use, compulsive behaviors can also range from obsessive viewing of social media, overuse of pornography, hair pulling, skin picking, emotional eating, restrictive eating, over-exercising, shopping excessively despite debt, sex addiction, and over-working. These behaviors can range from minor to problematic to life-altering concerns.


Compulsive behaviors can become addictions over a period of time where they are left unaddressed. One of the most life-risking addictions one can develop is from chronic use of illicit substances. Each substance varies in how long an addiction can take develop, some taking only weeks before there is physical and/or psychological dependency. Many substances can be life-threatening once an individual is physically addicted, and they will need detox services or medically assisted treatment (MAT) to come off of or manage their condition.


Some compulsions and addictions we find easier to discuss or laugh at while others can create a stronger sense of shame due to stigmatization, especially with illicit drugs. In my experience working with individuals with a compulsive behavior or addiction, it is often embarrassing to look at these behaviors or even acknowledge them. Some of us still live under a sense of denial which feels like it can protect us from shame.


Other compulsive behaviors stretch beyond use of illicit drugs and move into the territory of normal everyday behavior including sex, shopping, eating, exercising, et cetera. While abuse of illicit substances and engagement of compulsive behaviors can differ, they generally share three concerns in common.1) They helped us avoid pain. 2) They initially brought us a sense of pleasure. 3) They eventually became hardwired in our brains and turned into an urge or compulsion that is activated upon encountering a trigger. Below to the left you will find a video by expert Gabor Mate who can beautifully explain how we rethink addiction.

Special Note: If you do seek my services for substance abuse concerns, I will require that you sign releases for your doctor, family, and other important individuals. I ask this because chemical dependency can be life-threatening and treatment for substance addictions is better when it is integrated with other professionals and with your support. If you are court-referred, I am not a provider who can sufficiently provide you with the level of treatment you are likely needing. If your use is endangering your life, I recommend seeking residential, inpatient, and detox services first to gain stability before scheduling an appointment with me.

After meeting with me for your initial appointment we will map out your needs for sobriety. If you are an appropriate candidate for the use of EMDR, we will discuss this further in your session. My training for EMDR in the use of compulsive behaviors took place in February of 2019. In my work with individuals using EMDR for compulsive behaviors, I have so far seen improvement in the following areas:  reducing online shopping, easing workaholism, reducing consumption of certain foods and improving ability to make better choices, and reducing use of alcohol. Because of the nature and complexity of compulsive behaviors, I will not make any guarantees or promises of EMDR is the right modality for your needs prior to an initial appointment.

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