A compulsion is an irresistible urge to behave in a specific way, most likely and especially when it’s against a person’s conscious will. Compulsions are different than habits. Habits can be somewhat consciously controlled, and there are productive habits as well as non productive ones. Compulsions are not within your conscious control (therefore we say it’s against your will), and they are all non productive. This technique desensitizes compulsions that range from fingernail chewing to obsessing about being jilted.

Select the compulsion.

Choose a compulsion that the person wishes to eliminate. It should be one that has some kind of external trigger. Even nail biting has an external trigger. It is the sensation of fingernails extending to a certain length, or just existing.

Identify the primary trigger.

Determine what circumstance or factor triggers the compulsive behavior.

Identify the two strongest sub-modalities of the trigger.

Review the various sub-modalities of the rep systems involved in the trigger. For example, with nail biting, there are usually very specific sensations that are related to fingernails, but are much more subtle and specific, such as a tingling or pressure felt inside the body in connection with sensing the fingernails or even being conscious of them.

Intensify the sub-modalities to an extreme.

Have the person use their imagination to increase the sub-modalities to the highest possible level. 

If there is a sense of the nails sticking out, imagine them protruding very far. If it is a feeling of pressure in the body, imagine being closer and closer to exploding.

Repeat until there is significant desensitization.

Take the sub-modalities back to normal, and increase them to an extreme. Do this until the person shows signs of feeling that the process is boring, trivial, or otherwise not triggering.

Recommend additional help.

Do not attempt to replace treatment for a psychiatric problem such as drug addiction. Recommend that a person with potentially harmful behavior get an appropriate assessment for possible treatment.

See if the person reduces their compulsive behavior, is more open to additional work, or exhibits other signs of improvement. Repeat this process as needed.

You can add other approaches and NLP patterns for compulsive or obsessive behavior. Interruption is another approach. When the person feels like carrying out the behavior, they engage in an incompatible behavior that disrupts the impulsive drive. An example would be tightening the stomach while pressing the palms together intensely. Thought-stopping is another method, where the person substitutes another thought that is very “loud” and distracts from a compulsive thought. An energy therapy such as emotional freedom technique or a cognitive somatic therapy such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing may help. People with obsessive compulsive disorder may benefit from understanding the disorder and experiencing therapy that helps them understand that their compulsion is fueled largely by a brain dysfunction that can be seen graphically in a brain scan. Seeing such a brain scan is part of this treatment.