Wednesday, 26 May 2021

When habits become out of control - recognising and managing our behaviours

Everybody has good habits and bad habits and often the good habits can be difficult to start and the bad habits can be difficult to stop! But on the whole they don’t tend to negatively impact on our wellbeing in a significant way. However, sometimes we can start to feel dependent on certain habits to make us feel good and whether these were good habits or bad habits to start with doesn’t matter, doing them to excess and without control can cause us serious problems.

How do we know when a habit is out of control?

Any habit can get out of control or harmful through doing it to excess, even habits that are usually considered healthy, such as exercising or eating.

We may notice a habit becoming unhealthy when it starts to negatively impact on our lives in some way. It may impact on your physical health when you start to experience:
  • Difficulty sleeping or not getting enough sleep
  • Tiredness
  • Not eating regularly
  • Becoming ill more often
  • Decreased sex drive

It may affect your mental health and you may experience more:
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability/anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Paranoia
  • Feelings of hopelessness

It may affect your behaviours and relationships with others, as you may:
  • Exhibit secretive or dishonest behaviour
  • Display poor performance/attendance at work or school
  • Withdraw from responsibilities 
  • Withdraw from friends and family
  • See relationships breakdown
  • Have financial difficulties
  • Lose interest in activities, hobbies or events that were once important to you
  • Try but fail to reduce or stop the habit

Why am I doing this?

It is important to be kind to yourself and remember that this is something that can affect absolutely anybody, regardless of gender, age, or socioeconomic status, and is commonly a result of life experiences. Struggling with out of control habits is not something to be ashamed of, nor is it your fault.

However, dealing with a harmful habit without support or guidance can be a very isolating and challenging experience. Left ignored, your control can continue to deteriorate, impacting you physically, emotionally and socially. Don’t wait until the situation worsens to reach out for help.

What can I do?

Deciding to take back control of your behaviour is not an easy endeavour. If you have decided this is something you want to do for yourself and for your mental health, well done for making it this far. Some actions that you can start taking now are:
  • Recognising your triggers – what situations or emotions do you try to avoid or feel better from? Work-related stress? Loneliness? Anxiety? Being criticised? 
  • Removing temptation – try to make it easier on your willpower by removing situations that could tempt you, for example blocking gambling websites on your phone or avoiding meeting friends in locations where alcohol will be served.
  • Asking for support - having someone you can turn to, to hold you accountable and remind you of your goals when you feel your determination slipping can make all the difference in any moments of weakness
If you are struggling to get control back over your habits, speaking to a therapist can be very helpful. They can help you to identify and manage any potential triggers, as well as develop alternative, healthy strategies to use whenever they arise, and offer you support when you need it.

For more information about out of control habits, sign up to our webinar 'When Habits Get Out Of Control' taking place on Friday 4 June 2021 at 12 noon BST. 

Pallavi Parihar works as an Applied Psychology Practitioner at First Psychology Edinburgh. She will be presenting the webinar 'When Habits Get Out Of Control'

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