Delay Compulsions

Compulsions can be hard to stop. So in therapy one approach is to initially set a more achievable goal which can look like delaying the compulsion.

If a particular compulsion feels far too challenging and scary to stop right now, delaying that compulsion can be the first step.

If delaying by 10 minutes is too much, try 1 minute. If that’s too much try 10 seconds. Find what is manageable, achieve that and then increase that time from there. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can delay long enough that you lose the interest or need to do the compulsion. At this point, your brain is learning through the absence of the compulsion that you can tolerate the uncertainty.

Sometimes it’s easier with physical compulsions than mental compulsions. But it’s still achievable. With mental compulsions delaying could look like agreeing to ruminate but only after you we engage in something of meaning i.e. watch something, or go for a jog, or chat to a friend, or engage in our senses. Of course, skills like dropping anchor or urge surfing from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can help us ride out the urge to compulse while we are delaying.

Hope that helps.

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