The Difference Between Compulsive and Impulsive Behavior

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Watching someone who has problems controlling either their impulsive or compulsive behaviors can be troubling, but it’s first necessary to be able to name and identify the behavior for a person to ultimately get the appropriate help they need. Both of these behaviors are significant since they can take a huge toll on a person’s mental health and require attention if not kept in check. Understanding the difference between impulsive and compulsive behavior is crucial since these behaviors often occur in addiction or other co-occurring disorders.

Compulsive Behaviors

Compulsive behaviors involve compulsions, which give a person a strong urge to need to do some act prompted by a type of fear or anxiety if they do not perform it. Compulsions do not naturally occur as part of addiction, but they rather appear due to another concurrent disorder like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The urges to use in addiction are due to desiring a pleasure response by using while compulsions are driven by needing to alleviate negative feelings of unease. 

Impulsive Behaviors

Compulsive behavior is very different from impulsive behavior. For a person to act impulsively means they act quickly on strong urges to perform an act without consideration of the consequences. When acting impulsively, a person may not be able to resist doing something they already made up in their mind to do. Impulsive behaviors are not inherently bad, and to some extent, we all act impulsively on occasion, but depending on their outcomes they can carry negative repercussions for someone.

How They Both Present in Addiction

A person’s inability to control and stop their impulsive behavior to use drugs and/or alcohol leads to addiction. Through the course of an addiction, impulsive behavior becomes compulsive. Initially in addiction, a person acts impulsively and pleasure-seeking is the main motivation in substance abuse. Over time, this morphs into compulsive behavior for the abuser, since they now use substances to lessen their perceived pain. 

Impulsive and compulsive behaviors may negatively affect you or those around you. If they are coupled with addiction, their effects can be even more consequential. Identifying the problem is the first step towards recovery and more stability in your life. If you are ready to seek treatment, contact Avalon Malibu where our experienced staff is trained in a variety of healing modalities specific to behavior disorders, as well as any co-occurring substance use disorders. At Avalon, we will find the right treatment plan that best supports your needs. Call us today at (844) 857-5992 to choose your health and happiness.

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