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How To Be Effective in Changing Your Behavior


Updated November 07, 2008

People with PTSD may develop behaviors that appear useful in the moment but are actually harmful or detrimental to the person's well-being in the long-run, and therefore, it is important to learn how to go about changing your behavior.

So, how you go about identifying whether a behavior you are engaging in is good or bad for you? You can determine this by evaluating the short- and long-term pros and cons of a behavior. This simple exercise is described below.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 20 to 30 minutes

Here's How:

  1. You will first need to make a form to write out the short- and long-term pros and cons of a behavior. Using a sheet of paper or a word processing program on the computer, make a large square that is divided into four equal sections.

  2. Label the top left hand corner square short-term pros.

  3. Label the top right hand corner square long-term pros.

  4. Label the bottom left hand corner square short-term cons.

  5. Label the bottom right hand corner square long-term cons.

  6. Now, brainstorm for each section. Think back to the most recent time you engaged in the behavior you want to evaluate. Try to remember what you were feeling and thinking before and after the behavior. What went into your decision to engage in the behavior? Write down all the short- and long-term positive and negative consequences connected with this behavior.

  7. Once you have brainstormed for some time, take a look at what you came up with. Do the benefits out-weigh the negative consequences of the behavior? Are you willing to take the negative consequences along with the benefits? If not, it may be time to get help with changing this behavior.

  8. This exercise can be useful in increasing awareness of the eventual consequences of a problem behavior. Whenever you feel the urge to engage in this problem behavior, take out this form and remind yourself of the consequences the behavior may have.


  1. Be honest with yourself. If you have a behavior that you would like to change, chances are the behavior has some negative consequences. Otherwise, why would you want to change it? Try to come up with an equal amount of pros and cons.

  2. Not all pros and cons may be equal. Make a note of which negative consequences are more severe or worse. For example, although drinking alcohol or using drugs may have the short-term benefit of helping you avoid thoughts and feelings, the long-term consequence of losing your life or hurting your relationships definitely out-weighs this benefit.

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