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Behavior Modification- Compulsive Behavior and Cures



In this section, I will talk about compulsive behavior and cures. Specifically, behavior modification therapy will be discussed. This approach is not new. Mr. Skinner was an American behaviorist who developed this approach. He published his book in 1938 where he described the principles of operant conditioning. If you are interested in reading this book, the name is the Behavior of Organisms. Some libraries have copies of this book. I found the book to be interesting to read. However, it seems to me it was a little bit outdated.

By the way, many psychology courses in your local colleges and universities discuss the concepts of operant conditioning. The main goal of operant conditioning is to replace undesirable behaviors with desirable behaviors. Generally, it was done with the help of positive or negative reinforcements. A person who engaged in desirable behaviors was rewarded. The therapist and the sufferer had a contract in which the reward system was set up. This is an example of positive reinforcement.

Using the punishment is an example of negative reinforcement. Not allowing your child to go outside to play with the other kids if he or she engages in undesirable behaviors is an example of negative reinforcement. By the way, we use the method of Mr. Skinner in our daily lives whether we know it or not. Mr. Skinner rightfully believed that his approach of treatment could have been applied to all anxiety disorders, phobia, and attention-deficit disorder. The operant conditioning can deal with compulsive behavior. However, the main question is how successful it really is in a long run.

Now, we will discuss the long-term effects of such operant conditioning on a person with any anxiety disorder, not just OCD. Mr. Skinner was right in a sense that his modification behavior therapy is effective in eliminating a variety of undesirable behaviors, including any compulsive behavior. However, I believe this approach to treatment does not produce permanent results in eliminating unwanted behaviors. Thus, talking about compulsive behavior and cures by using behavior modification is ridiculous.

The operant conditioning approach focuses on outward symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It essentially treats your compulsive behavior. In another words, this therapy treats something people can easily observe. However, it does not really treat the underlying cause of OCD. Anxiety is what triggers your unwanted behaviors in the first place. If you did read my other sections on this site, you already know that any treatment of outward, physical OCD symptoms will be superficial and not long-lasting at best.

Let us assume that your behavior modification therapy was effective. You were finally free from your obsessive/compulsive behaviors. For days and even months, you were free from all symptoms. Unexpectedly, you were stressed out again. Something has happened either at your work or at home that has caused you to feel a high level of anxiety. Suddenly, all compulsive behaviors came back. In fact, they came back even with more intensity that they were before. Now, you realize that the therapy has failed to work for long. In fact, you have more problems now with your condition that you ever had in your entire life.

Many medical professionals also began to realize that one particular therapy might not be effective for treating this condition. Now, it is believed that the combination approach to treatment of OCD is the most beneficial approach. Psychiatric medications target anxiety associated with this condition. Behavior modification therapy targets compulsive behavior. This way, all components of OCD are being covered.

Therefore, when I discuss behavior modification, I cannot really talk about compulsive behavior and cures. In another words, behavior modification therapy has never cured anyone. Its effect on OCD is superficial and short-lived.

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