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Habits and Obsession

Habits and Obsessions

Many psychological problems may be attributed to either habit or obsession - and it is important to understand the difference, for the treatment varies greatly. In this article, we will look at some common situations, what can be done about them, and how...

First, we will look at habits as opposed to obsessive behaviour patterns

How to break bad habits

There's a lot of truth in that old saying: "Old habits die hard" - the longer you have sustained a habit, the more difficult it can be to resolve the issue. Online therapy is not really the way forward, most of the time, though it can sometimes achieve a reasonable result.

We are frequently asked about how to break bad habits and nervous habits and we will consider these situations here.

Really, there is no such thing as a 'bad' habit - a habit is just a behaviour pattern that is carried out almost automatically. What the phrase 'bad habit' really refers to is a behaviour pattern that is considered undesirable for one reason or another.

As for how to break bad habits, well, some are far easier to deal with than others. Cigarette smoking, for instance, is easily resolved by a face-to-face session with a competent hypnotherapist - a single session is often sufficient. Hypnosis has been shown as being the single most effective means to quit smoking tobacco (New Scientist, 2003). There is no need to be at all concerned about hypnosis; a hypnotised person does not actually feel hypnotised, since there is no such thing as a hypnotised feeling.

Many people fear being 'out of control' yet this fear is totally groundless. A hypnotherapist or hypnotist cannot make you do anything you do not want to do, or would not want to do in the normal way. All he or she can do is to help you achieve something that you want to do and achieve it more easily than you would otherwise manage. For more information on hypnosis, look at this page: Hypnosis

Other methods to deal with smoking cessation include NLP and Acupuncture.

It's a similar story with nail biting, often considered to be a 'bad habit' - as hard as it may be to imagine right now, a single session of hypnosis will often allow the nail biter to cease the habit literally overnight - and however long you have sustained it for, nails soon grow again!

Hypnosis can also be immensely helpful with poor eating habits when it is simply a matter of gaining control over your diet. On its own, it is not so good for conditions such as Anorexia and Bulemia.

If you have a drug or alcohol related habit, then that is something which needs a therapist who specialises in substance abuse and again will require face-to-face sessions. Let us have your location and contact details and we will be able to put you in touch with a competent professional.

Nervous habits

These can include things like sniffing, coughing, hair-twirling, finger-picking, twitching, laughing inappropriately and so on. Some of these things are occasionally based around a medical condition called Tourette's syndrome but even then it is possible to find some, if not total, relief with the application of right sort of therapy. Many nervous habits respond quickly to therapy, though one-to-one sessions may sometimes be needed.


And now we come to obsessive behaviour patterns. These conditions are, in fact, far more prevalent than many people realise. It is entirely possible to provide help for most of them, although, in general, there are no reliable quick-fix methods.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ('OCD')

The most common of the obsessive conditions is OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), technically classified as an obsessive thought leading to a compulsive action. The obsession will often take the form of behavioural patterns like continual cleaning, avoiding the cracks in the pavement, making endless lists of things, or maybe performing somewhat pointless time-consuming rituals. An individual suffering this aspect of obsession can, in fact, harbour many different rituals each associated with different aspects of life such as (and there are many more than the examples given here):

  • Leaving the house
  • Going to bed
  • Going to work
  • Answering the telephone
  • Going from one room to another
  • Reading a newspaper

The rituals will typically have no logical purpose. An individual may operate a light switch 7 times before leaving it; rearrange the pillows on the bed 4 times; check each corner of the room twice; pick an object up and put it down several times; arrange things in a certain order, then rearrange them; constantly count the number of roses on the wall paper... in fact he or she might perform absolutely any action a set number of times - and it will always be the same number of times.

Because of all this, a simple task like preparing for bed can take maybe 30 minutes or even longer; leaving the house might involve reentering several times in order to check locks and windows that have already been checked and indeed may include unlocking and relocking them. Nothing is being sought by these obsessive actions - for the most part, the 'owner' of the condition will simply feel, fear, or believe that something awful will happen if these rituals are not completed properly and no amount of logic will persuade him or her that the rituals are unnecessary

Another, milder, indicator of obsessive compulsive disorder is the need for extreme tidiness and order, in which objects on shelves, in cupboards or on table-tops, for example, must be arranged in a certain way - usually perfectly centered and meticulously placed.

Obsessive illness can sometimes be 'invisible' to the outside observer, consisting of obsessive thought patterns in which the same thought or series of thoughts is repeated in the mind over and again to the point of causing exhaustion. It is not unknown for these thoughts to be of an 'inappropriate nature' in some way when they can cause great distress to the individual concerned. These can include:

  • Urges to spit at others
  • Fears of suddenly jumping from high places
  • Wish to severely offend others in some way
  • Obsessions with bodily functions, especially masturbation
  • bodily functions of others, especially defaecation or urination
  • Fears of throwing oneself into the path of trains or traffic
  • Urges to shout obscenities at others (especially but not exclusively in Tourette's Syndrome)
  • Sexually 'interfering' with somebody

Sexual jealousy also quite frequently has overtones of obsession as do some apparent phobias, particularly Emetophobia (fear of vomit or vomiting).

Other recognised obsessive conditions are Tourette's Syndrome and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). None of these obsessive situations, unfortunately, respond very well to telephone work or E-therapy, if at all; it is really only Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that has a good chance of working with a relatively brief therapy, sometimes incorporating the use of Hypnosis to reinforce the changes that CBT brings about.

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