You may have heard this advice in the past. Keep busy and things will get better. Whether that’s because of a low mood, sadness after a break-up or perhaps behaviour that’s become out of control. That might sound like a good idea on the surface. Distraction techniques have proved useful for some people.
But what if you replace one compulsive behaviour with another? Or what if you don’t allow yourself to grieve fully because you have distracted yourself?
Let’s look at addictive behaviours; gambling, eating, shopping and sex, amongst others. If you have reached a point where you want to stop on your own without any help, this will be extremely difficult, or even impossible. Keeping busy with something else could stop you from causing more harm to yourself or your family but the risk is that the new behaviour could turn out to be just as damaging. One of the most popular distraction activities is exercise. This sounds positive right? Join a gym, meet new people and get fit at the same time. Yes, of course that sounds like a positive move. But if this new activity takes over as a strategy to manage your difficult emotions, you will eventually feel compelled to work out even when your body has had enough.
The best long-term solution to stopping harmful behaviour is to seek counselling and work though the reasons you started in the first place. It’s surprising, but sex addiction rarely has anything to do with sex, gambling addiction rarely has anything to do with money and compulsive shopping has nothing to do with the items bought. Even compulsive eating has nothing to do with how good the food tastes. It’s usually about an emotional need that hasn’t been met. Exploring what the emotions are is a difficult job sometimes, let alone how to manage them once you have discovered them. To work through that needs help.
Stop and think next time you decide to go it alone, do you need help or are you going to risk starting another obsession?