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  • Writer's pictureBrandi Nik Kilbourne

From Understanding to Empowerment: Navigating Compulsive and Impulsive Behaviors

Hey there, Life Masters! Life can be quite the rollercoaster, and sometimes our behaviors can take on interesting twists and turns. Ever heard of compulsive and impulsive behaviors? They're like two characters in this wild ride of the mental health journey, each with their own quirks. In this blog post, we're going to dive into their world, unravel their differences, explore what drives them, and discover ways to find balance.

Understanding Compulsive Behavior:

So, let's start with compulsive behavior. Picture this: repetitive actions that you feel this itch to do over and over again. It's like a mental itch that just won't go away until you scratch it. Things like excessive hand washing, checking the stove, or organizing your sock drawer can fall into this category. They're often driven by a need to ease anxiety, soothe intrusive thoughts, or gain a temporary sense of control. But here's the kicker – they can end up trapping you in a cycle of anxiety and compulsion.

Coach Cicely from our Infinite Growth Club was doing a live talk in our private community about this topic and shared with us her own battles with compulsive behaviors. She described how she once had a compulsion to check the door to make sure that it was locked after she’d already left the house for work. This started to interfere with her getting to work on time, because something kept telling her that she’d left the front door unlocked and that someone would surely break into the house as a consequence of her supposed mishap. Of course, the door was always locked when she went back to check it. And while she maintained those compulsions, she was always late for work.

Unraveling Impulsive Behavior:

Now, let's turn our attention to impulsive behavior. Ah, the thrill-seekers of the bunch! Impulsive behaviors are like those split-second decisions that you make without really thinking about the consequences. It's like your brain is saying, "Hey, let's do this NOW!" Whether it's buying that shiny new gadget, diving headfirst into a risky adventure, or making snap judgments, impulsive actions are driven by the desire for instant gratification or a need to escape boredom or discomfort.

My fiancee and I just got into a bit of a “tiff” over impulsive behaviors because a couple of days ago I got the call “Hey babe! Guess what? I entered an auction for some artwork that I loved featuring Kobe Bryant and Muhammad Ali. And do you know that I won both bids!?” My follow up questions was…how much were your bids?...As it turns out, in a moment of impulsivity connected to their emotions, my fiancee ended up spending almost as much as we pay in rent on the bids.

But, hey! #Yolo, right?

Causes and Triggers:

What makes these behaviors tick? Well, they can have a mix of causes. Some folks might have a genetic predisposition to compulsive or impulsive tendencies. Certain genetic variations can influence brain function and increase the likelihood of engaging in these behaviors. However, it's important to note that genetics alone do not determine one's destiny, as environmental factors also play a significant role.

Others might have brain chemistry imbalances or learned behaviors that contribute to the mix. The intricate balance of chemicals in our brains, such as neurotransmitters, can influence our behavior and emotions. Imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate have been associated with compulsive and impulsive behaviors. These imbalances can affect the brain circuits involved in decision-making, impulse control, and reward processing. Our experiences also shape us, and learned behaviors can contribute to the development of compulsive and impulsive tendencies. For example, if someone grew up in an environment where compulsive behaviors were reinforced or witnessed impulsive actions without consequences, they may be more prone to adopt similar patterns of behavior.

Certain mental health conditions like OCD or ADHD can also play a role. OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors, while ADHD is linked to impulsivity, hyperactivity, and difficulties with impulse control.

And let's not forget about good old stress, anxiety, and emotional rollercoasters – they can trigger these behaviors and make them more intense. When we experience heightened emotions or overwhelming stress, some of us may seek relief through repetitive actions or impulsive decision-making as a means of temporarily alleviating discomfort or gaining a sense of control. Think about this the next time you indulge in the bowl of ice-cream when you’re feeling sad about something!

Strategies for Managing and Finding Balance:

Alright, now that we've explored their personalities, let's talk about finding some balance if you believe that you are experiencing signs or tendencies of compulsive or impulsive behaviors:

1. Get to Know Yourself: Take some time to observe your thoughts, feelings, and urges without judgment. Mindfulness is your buddy here. This self-awareness can help you hit the pause button before jumping into action and make more intentional choices. Consider picking up your journal and writing down your feelings when you recognize these behaviors rearing their heads.

2. Reach Out for Support: If these behaviors are causing significant disruptions, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Mental health professionals can guide you through therapeutic interventions and provide the support you need.

3. Find Your Healthy Coping Groove: Experiment with different coping strategies to manage stress and emotions. Whether it's going for a run, practicing meditation, writing in a journal, or painting, find what works for you. These healthy outlets can redirect impulsive urges and bring a sense of calm and balance to your life.

4. Create Structure and Routine: Establishing a solid routine with clear goals and boundaries can be a game-changer. It helps rein in impulsive actions and brings a sense of stability. Plus, it gives you a chance to showcase your organized side!

5. Embrace Healthy Coping Strategies: Discover healthy ways to manage stress and emotions. Take deep breaths, try out progressive muscle relaxation, or have a heart-to-heart with a trusted friend or therapist. Building a toolbox of healthy coping mechanisms will help you navigate those tricky moments.

So, Life Masters, remember that you're not alone. By increasing self-awareness, seeking support, and practicing healthy coping strategies, you can find your rhythm and create a more balanced life. It's a journey of self-discovery and growth, where you learn to navigate the twists and turns with grace.

As we wrap up, let's remember that being compulsive or impulsive doesn't define who you are as a person, either! It's just one aspect of your experience. By understanding these behaviors, their triggers, and the underlying reasons behind them, you empower yourself to make conscious choices and embrace a healthier, more fulfilling life.

And hey, since it's Mental Health Awareness Month, let's celebrate the strength it takes to acknowledge and work through these challenges. You are resilient, brave, and capable of change.

I encourage you to keep exploring and remember to be gentle with yourself along the way. You're on a path of growth, and every step forward is a victory.

~ Coach Brandi Nik

Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer, & 200RYT Yoga Instructor


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