Overcoming Habits

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

Dear Readers:


As an added resource, over the next few months I will supplement my answers with self-help materials. Supplemental reading for today’s answers can be found in my book “Welcome Home. A Book About Overcoming Addictions” (pp. 65-66 for Answer 1; pp. 67-68 for Answer 2). For more information visit my Web site at www.DrGelbSays.com.

”Reaching Out – Am I Talking Too Much?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

I’m 15 years old and going through a lot of changes. I spend a lot of time on the phone with my friends, not just socializing, but because I need them to reassure me about what I am doing with my life. When I can’t reach someone, I panic. I know that support is a good thing, but am I going overboard?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Talker:

Your question reveals that you have developed a dependency on external stimuli for a sense of emotional security. Your thought processes are obviously not providing you with the intellectual challenge and entertainment that most of us rely on when we are alone. It is OK to be alone and not feel lonely. Consider practicing independence. Your habit of needing someone to talk to can be replaced with something more suitable. Then the old habit is likely to soon subside.

”Nail-Biting – How do I Stop it?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

Nail-biting is a well-known habit that some people have relating to anxiety and nervousness. I know of someone whose nail biting often goes to the point of causing slight bleeding. I have also heard of people having habits that involve self-inflicting pain. Why would people do this to themselves?

Nail Biter

A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Biter:

Most people have a hard time admitting that they are afflicted with a painful, destructive habit. Yet typically, nail biting and other similar habits are just that — habits. People who are afflicted with such habits have invariably taught their bodies to perform the particular behavior at a given emotional signal such as anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy or love. Any of these emotions when threatened or activated, can be a trigger for the body to engage in a habit, be it nail-biting, cuticle picking, lip-biting, eyes blinking or sniffing, for example. These are sometimes called ticks and from a psychological standpoint, for adults these habits can be as annoying as stuttering is to the stutterer.

One approach that has been effective for some people is to try to substitute one habit for another less harmful one, such as whistling (have you ever got on the elevator with a compulsive whistler? Annoying huh).

Some people who have not been successful with this type of approach, have sought help from a properly trained, credentialed hypnotherapist who can assist individuals to comfortably and safely reprogram their choices and teach their bodies to refrain from engaging in a particular habit. Then it is not necessary to trade one habit for another. Good luck.

”’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