Do You Feel That You Are Experiencing Repetition Syndrome?
It Is A Common Reaction To Distress And Trauma!
What is Repetition Syndrome?
Repetition syndrome, also known as “repetition compulsions,” is a psychological phenomenon in which a person feels an intense need to repeat certain actions or behaviors that are related to a traumatic experience, such as a relationship scam.
This can take many forms, such as repeating specific rituals or routines, repeating the same phrases or words, or repeating the same activities or behaviors over and over again.
Repetition syndrome is often a manifestation of underlying anxiety or other mental health issues, and it can interfere with a person’s daily life and functioning, and ability to recover from a traumatic experience.
Treatment for repetition syndrome typically involves therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help the person learn coping mechanisms and break the cycle of repetitive behaviors. A peer support environment can also be helpful (such as a SCARS Support & Recovery Group.)
What to know about Repetition Compulsion?
Repetition compulsion, or repetitive compulsion or repetition syndrome, is sometimes also called trauma reenactment. It involves repeating physically or emotionally painful situations that happened in the past.
The reenactment may take the form of recurring dreams and may affect relationships in various ways.
We see this in scam victims through their repeated need to relive the fake relationship, playing over the dialog over and over constantly in their mind.
Experts have several theories to explain the factors that may cause this phenomenon
Sources report on some of these theories from various experts, including Sigmund Freud, who is the father of psychoanalysis. His view is that a person’s inability to discuss or remember past traumatic events might lead them to repeat these traumas compulsively.
One possible strategy for overcoming repetition compulsion is trauma therapy, exploring and identifying early trauma that may be responsible for later traumatic reenactions.
Repetition compulsion refers to an unconscious need to reenact early traumas or current traumas. A person with this condition repeats these traumas in new situations that might symbolize the initial trauma.
Repetition compulsion can act as a barrier to therapeutic change in a person. Therapy aims to help the person remember the trauma and understand how it is influencing their current behavior.
There are different forms of reenactment, one of which is dreams.
According to a 1990 case study, someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might have recurring dreams of the experience or initial trauma, which might cause them to become preoccupied with it.
Research also notes that many people relive past traumas in their present lives. For example, people who experience sexual abuse during childhood are more likely to experience it as an adult.
Additionally, someone who experiences violence in their childhood may be more likely to become a perpetrator of violence in later life. The helplessness they felt as a child might motivate them to take the extreme measure of committing violence to avoid feeling it again. This behavior is a form of reenactment.
Although these examples show the negative effects of repetition compulsion, reenactment can also potentially be positive. An example of an adaptive reenactment might be when a grieving individual repeatedly tells stories about their lost loved one. This enables them to work through their loss and can reduce the pain that typically comes with grieving.
Some possible causes of repetitive compulsion behaviors include:
People may have a rigid or inflexible way of defending themselves against experiencing a repetition of their trauma, but having these mechanisms can inadvertently result in the reenactment occurring anyway.
For example, a person who experiences abandonment in their childhood may act possessively in relationships later on in life to avoid past feelings of loneliness or neglect. However, the person may risk losing their partner if they behave in this way and may end up feeling those emotions anyway.
Affective dysregulation relates to having poorly regulated emotional reactions in response to negative stimuli. For example, people who experience frequent, harsh disapproval from a parent or caregiver may have low self-esteem. They may also be very sensitive to criticism. Consequently, in later relationships, these people may consider criticism harsh, even when it is not, and respond with hostility.
Ego deficits can refer to a limitation in mental resources. This limitation might manifest as various psychosocial problems in a person.
Long-term abuse may result in psychosocial effects that can include:
- Self-abusive behavior
- Low self-esteem
- Substance use disorders
- Inability to trust
- Difficult interpersonal relationships
For instance, a person with a history of growing up in an abusive environment may feel reluctant to leave an abusive partner later in life. This reluctance may stem from the inability to trust others to provide the necessary help.
Theories behind the repetitive compulsion
Experts propose several theories that may explain this type of behavior. These include:
Some people are unable to talk about or remember a past trauma, so they express it through actions rather than words. Freud states that those who do not remember past trauma may have the drive to repeat the repressed experience in their present life.
In the case of relationship scam victims, we see this as repeating the same experience that led to the scam – such as returning to online dating or accepting connections with strangers online.
Mastery in this context may mean that a person with traumatic past experiences is reenacting their trauma as a way to cope and heal. The problem with this theory is that reenactments rarely lead to mastery without treatment. Instead, traumatized people often lead traumatized lives.
We see this manifest in scam victims through a need to master other victims. Not exactly Savior Syndrome, but an urgent desire to help others as a way to master their own trauma.
An older 1989 study adds that physiological hyperarousal may play a role in repetition compulsion. This means that a person displays increased responsiveness to stimuli that remind them of the initial trauma. Hyperarousal can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including anxiety, elevation in heart rate, and stress. This type of response can hinder a person’s ability to make rational judgments.
The common response in this case for scam victims is compulsive exposing (posting) scammers or fake profile reporting.
Strategies To Overcome It
Repetitive compulsion can be very challenging to treat.
However, research notes that therapy can be effective. It involves exploring a person’s past or present traumatic relationships and experiences to identify how and why they are reenacting a trauma. The goal is to help a person understand the unconscious forces that drive them.
Once the individual understands the effect that the trauma is having on the present, they have the opportunity to integrate the traumatic experience. This may lead to less intense feelings and better judgment. The aim of support or treatment is to break the pattern of repetition.
Some people may not wish to undergo in-depth therapy. For these individuals, other types of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may be a more suitable approach.
Repetition compulsion, or trauma reenactment, may occur due to various painful experiences early in life, such as relationship scams, or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. An inability to resolve or integrate the trauma which can result in the person reliving the circumstances repetitively.
Therapy can enable someone to work through the trauma, which can help stop these reenactments.