Overcoming Destructive Habits

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

”Addictions – Can They be Resolved?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

My older brother has a drinking problem, and my best friend has what I think they call an eating disorder. I have watched them both battle these habits, and sometimes it seems like they are in control of the addiction and things are going to be fine, but it never seems to last, and sooner or later they are back doing the same unhealthy behavior again. I really love my brother, and my best friend is neat, but the drinking and the bingeing and purging has really taken its toll on our relating. Is recovery from the clutches of these habits really possible?

Caring Sister and Friend

A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Caring:

I appreciate the frustration that can occur when trying to relate with someone who is battling an addiction. Often the habit is so strong that it dominates that person’s relating — whether that person feels good or bad, sociable or not, energetic or not, for example, is largely determined by how heavy the addiction is at a given moment.

But yes, I do believe that resolution is possible and I am constantly arguing with the all too typical attitude that once addicted always addicted. I kicked an addictive habit myself, and I truly believe that others can do it also. Addictions are typically habitual processes that people have taught themselves to depend upon, both physically and emotionally, in many instances. Fortunately habits and learned behaviors can be unlearned and we can teach ourselves to let go of destructive choices.

My book, “Welcome Home. A Book About Overcoming Addictions,” addresses this topic. If you would care to read just the Introduction alone, it could offer you additional insight into your question. For more information on my book, you might want to log onto my Web site at https://www.DrGelbSays.com

”Perfectionists – Why Are Some People Like That?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

I have a friend who whenever she comes to visit she is always straightening my pictures, uncurling the corners of my throw rugs and if the frayed edges are not exactly combed she will take her fingers and comb around the whole rug. We have very little time to visit because she is so busy straightening my house out. It is not that she is impolite, but she just seems to have a need to do this. Why?

Obsessive’s Friend

A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Friend:

Many mental health professionals have identified the behavior you describe as obsessive-compulsive. Unfortunately, this behavior can become so severe that it causes some people to have trouble leaving their home because, for example, they feel that they have to go back and check if they forgot to comb out the carpet frays, or they may have been reading a book and forgot to put it back; or they forgot to turn up one corner of the toilet paper roll. Then they remember that they left the glass that they drank out of sitting on the sink, and after that they recall that they were in the bedroom and they sat down on the bed and when they got up they forgot to brush out the imprint; and as they take care of that they notice that one part of the curtain in the bedroom was a little crooked and they have to straighten that out. Then they realize that although they thought that they dusted the rail on the bed, they notice that they forgot and they have to run their finger on it just to make sure there was no dust on it. Just as they are leaving the bedroom, they recall making the bed and that they forgot to put a clean pillowcase for one of the pillows. “Before I can go out, I got to change that and put a clean one on,” the thinking goes. And now they are on their way to the door, hopefully to leave. But, there is a scarf on the coat wrack. “I just have to straighten that up before. Oh my God, I walked across that rug. I’ve got to get my broom and sweep out those footprints. I didn’t clean my nails this morning, I can’t go out. I mustn’t go out with that hangnail.”

These compulsive habits usually originate in early childhood when a child’s behavior, or looks, or choices are met with constant disapproval, and they are made to do certain tasks over and over again, with the threat of severe punishment or at least severe consequences if they do not do it correctly. They also fear that they will be laughed at, ridiculed or made fun of. Children who are raised in this type of environment are often made to feel doubtful and shameful about themselves.

Many people who have identified themselves as fitting into a mild or severe category of this type of behavior, have found that some sessions with a competent psychotherapist were invaluable.

My book, “Welcome Home. A Book About Overcoming Addictions,” addresses this topic of perfectionism on pages 2 – 4. For more information on my book, you might want to log onto my Web site at https://www.DrGelbSays.com

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

”’Email your questions to mailto:DrGelbSays@hawaiireporter.com More information on Dr. Gelb’s services and related resources available at”’ https://www.DrGelbSays.com