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Changing Your Life by Changing Your Behaviors

Ways of Moving Your Life in a Positive Direction When You Have PTSD


Updated January 27, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Many people with PTSD engage in a wide variety of unhealthy behaviors, and a major part of changing your life when you have PTSD is by replacing your unhealthy behaviors with healthier ones. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when you are experiencing high levels of anxiety or unpleasant thoughts. These unpleasant emotions and thoughts often cause people with PTSD to avoid, isolate themselves, or shut down. In addition, these unpleasant thoughts and emotions can lead to even more unhealthy behaviors as people try to get some relief from their symptoms.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to modify your behaviors. This article takes you through some of these strategies. By practicing these strategies and incorporating them into your everyday life, you can start to build a more meaningful and positive life for yourself.

1. Make the Decision to Change a Behavior

Changing a behavior is never an easy thing to do, especially if you have been engaging in that behavior for a long time. However, one way to increase motivation to change a behavior is by figuring out the long- and short-term positive and negative consequences of a behavior. This way, you can get a better sense of how the behavior interferes with your life, as well as how you might be able to replace it with a healthier behavior.

2. Increase Your Positive Activities with Behavioral Activation

Many people with PTSD engage in frequent avoidance behaviors, including isolation. As a result, they may lose contact with positive events or activities in their life, which can increase risk for depression and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Behavioral activation is one way to break down avoidance in PTSD, as well as prevent isolation. In doing so, behavioral activation can reduce your risk for depression and increase the extent with which you feel as though you are living a positive and meaningful life.

3. Improve the Success of Behavioral Activation

Even though behavioral activation sounds like a simple strategy, it can sometimes be difficult to do. It might be particularly difficult to do if you are experiencing high levels of anxiety or depression. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to improve the effectiveness of behavioral activation. Some tips for increasing the success of behavioral activation are discussed in this article.

4. Use Chain Analysis to Modify a Behavior

One way to change a behavior is to better understand why it occurs. Chain analysis is one strategy that helps with this. In doing a chain analysis, you can get a better understanding of what situations, thoughts, and feelings contribute to a behavior. By knowing what can lead to a behavior, you can identify ways to intervene to prevent the behavior from occurring again. You can also get a better sense of what might be a healthy behavior that you could engage in should the same situation, thoughts, or feelings occur again.

5. Set and Manage Goals

Goals are very important. They give your life direction and can increase motivation. However, there is an art to setting goals. If not done correctly, people can find their goals overwhelming and even feel trapped by their goals. This article takes you through some steps in how to set goals in an effective way.

6. Prevent Impulsive Behaviors

The symptoms of PTSD can increase the risk of impulsive behaviors, such as substance misuse, deliberate self-harm, or eating disorder behaviors (for example, binge eating). Impulsive behaviors may bring about immediate relief, but they can quickly result in a number of other problems for you. By their nature impulsive behaviors are very difficult to prevent. They happen quickly and often without any forethought. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of impulsive behaviors. This article takes you through four strategies that you can easily implement today.
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