Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.
"I just can't help myself." "I start and I can't stop." "It's like something comes over me." "I couldn't do.....I don't know why." These are some of the comments people make when they engage in compulsive behaviors. Yes, it does feel like the behavior, habit, or even certain moods come on, take over and have a life of their own. People depersonalize to some extent, go into a trance, to numb out feelings and thoughts, and it hurts to face reality, take charge and exercise self-control.
Real physical addiction, like alcoholism, does come with a desparate physical craving, of course. Even with addictions, when people stop, they realize there's choice involved. Biochemistry plays a role in moods, too, but changing environment and behavior changes biochemistry, in turn. I'm talking about compulsive eating, choosing to stay home when going out would help overcome anxiety, and other behaviors over which there's choice. (I know I've written too much about taking personal responsibility for harmful behavior, so I promise not to keep belaboring this point in future posts.) It's just that it's so easy not to think .
It's a form of learned helplessness and dependency in which it seems easier to suffer the repercussions of the depressive or compulsive behavior than to handle or accept life as it is. Truth is, though, that it's no harder to deal with real feelings, real situations, and real people than to hide behind a disability, once a person gets used to taking responsibility for herself. In fact, while engaged in the disabling behavior, he has that problem plus whatever he's not facing. Being real, ultimately, feels good because there's an integrity to being authentic.