Definition of compulsive in US English:



  • 1Resulting from or relating to an irresistible urge, especially one that is against one's conscious wishes.

    ‘compulsive eating’
    • ‘Well, compulsive behaviour has been, for decades now, easier to treat psychologically than obsessions.’
    • ‘I also struggle with compulsive behaviours from time to time.’
    • ‘Most people with OCD struggle to banish their unwanted, obsessive thoughts and to prevent themselves from engaging in compulsive behaviors.’
    • ‘A child's ability to play is limited by these compulsive behaviors.’
    • ‘It is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving.’
    • ‘Those addicted to drugs suffer from a compulsive drug craving and usage and cannot quit by themselves.’
    • ‘Difficult to define exactly, it has become popular to think of almost any behavior that has a compulsive quality as an ‘addiction.’’
    • ‘Many had kept secret their compulsive eating binges or their ‘purging’ behaviors for years.’
    • ‘If not detected and treated early, compulsive gambling might lead to estrangement from family and friends as well as financial and legal difficulties.’
    • ‘For example, multiple addictions have been found among more than half of adolescents who have a compulsive behaviour problem.’
    • ‘Marijuana is addictive because it causes compulsive, uncontrollable drug craving, seeking and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences.’
    • ‘The child may develop school phobias, compulsive eating or psychosomatic illnesses.’
    • ‘What is distinctive about such compulsive behaviour, I would argue, is that the desires and emotions in question are more or less radically independent of the evaluational systems of these agents.’
    • ‘By all indications the episodic behavior could become more compulsive and frequent.’
    • ‘Most people with OCD struggle to banish their unwanted thoughts and compulsive behaviors.’
    • ‘As you learn to modify your compulsive behaviour, your anxiety levels should lessen.’
    • ‘But motivation coming from a negative source relentlessly generates anxiety and stress, creating compulsive perfectionism.’
    • ‘Some individuals with bulimia struggle with addictions, including abuse of drugs and alcohol, and compulsive stealing.’
    • ‘Surveillance - a new and ominous term - became compulsive and almost second nature, even when its use was self-defeating.’
    • ‘As treatment progresses, most patients gradually experience less anxiety from the obsessive thoughts and are able to resist the compulsive urges.’
    irresistible, uncontrollable, compelling, driving, overwhelming, overpowering, urgent, besetting
    obsessive, obsessional, addictive, uncontrollable, out of control, ungovernable
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    1. 1.1 (of a person) acting as a result of an irresistible urge.
      ‘a compulsive liar’
      • ‘My husband is a compulsive hoarder and shopaholic, filling every inch of our six-bedroom house.’
      • ‘However, you may be up against something that you (and other compulsive overeaters) cannot deal with alone.’
      • ‘I have no tolerance for compulsive gamblers, this stemming from a personal experience with one.’
      • ‘A compulsive overeater (binge-eater) is an individual who compulsively eats but does not purge and usually becomes overweight.’
      • ‘Black said she has neglected her house and garden, and her children and pets - members are compulsive readers.’
      • ‘She became a compulsive reader of plant and seed catalogues, and even spent a month in China collecting seeds and hunting for plants.’
      • ‘At first Swiss police thought the Frenchman, who crossed the border each day to work in restaurants, was a passionate art lover who became a compulsive thief to realise his dream of owning a private art collection.’
      • ‘Her job at an auctioneer's - one where rich girls fill in time before getting hitched - doesn't pay enough, especially as she is a compulsive consumer.’
      • ‘But some people fear they could be the breeding ground for the compulsive gamblers of the future.’
      • ‘For many years he was a compulsive gambler, and a very unsuccessful one at that, and while there is no evidence that his life was overly blighted by the addiction, he did run up fairly substantial debts to several bookmakers in Glasgow.’
      • ‘You know I can be a very compulsive person, and I have to admit that most of the time I read in the same way that I smoke and chew gum and jiggle my leg a lot.’
      • ‘The near limitless play potential makes this game a godsend for obsessive, compulsive fans of this style of play, and the ocean deep gameplay ensures that there is always something new to do.’
      • ‘The compulsive overeater eats whenever and whatever she likes.’
      • ‘He became a compulsive traveller, spending a year on the Ivory Coast in 1931 and making many photographs.’
      • ‘But I think, you know, the combination of a wild stock market with Internet accessibility has turned a lot of people into compulsive gamblers.’
      • ‘If she is the sort of compulsive person driven to fix typos and check that the listed URLs are working, this site will keep her busy forever.’
      • ‘I am a compulsive consumer of gossip magazines and freely admit to an unhealthy fascination with celebrity.’
      • ‘This is a comic take on the nature of luck and the power of faith from the perspective of a cancer patient and her compulsive gambler husband.’
      • ‘Sure enough, he was a liar and a compulsive gambler.’
      • ‘As a compulsive user of, I think that that competition is precisely the point.’
      inveterate, chronic, incorrigible, incurable, irredeemable, hardened, hopeless, persistent
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  • 2Irresistibly interesting or exciting; compelling.

    ‘this play is compulsive viewing’
    • ‘I know how hard our staff work and play and it'll make more compulsive viewing than a bunch of wannabe pop stars.’
    • ‘Rarely have the compositional anxieties of the Scherzo sounded more robust and urgent, or its litany of compulsive surges so compelling.’
    • ‘If the national press are anything to go by this is a play that makes for compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘Third, technology has a compelling, even compulsive, logic of its own.’
    • ‘Foregone conclusions don't make for compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘The guitarist has a thousand yard stare that gives the complete impression of disconnection - it's a compulsive and exciting experience.’
    • ‘The Republic recovered the pride and drive that fuelled their brave World Cup challenge on a night when Hampden Park rocked to the compulsive beat of a compelling performance.’
    • ‘Over the past two Sundays, Williams's disturbing 10-month-long expose of Britain's hooligan underworld has made compulsive viewing on BBC2.’
    • ‘It became compulsive viewing on a Sunday evening, resulting in clergymen changing the times of Sunday evening church services.’
    • ‘Her snappy asides, unconstrained mix of observational humour and rants on life's irritations make for lucid, compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘And while the group's in-house manoeuvring for position made compulsive viewing in itself, the audience had the final say on who went and who stayed.’
    • ‘Since I'm trying to deny the horrifying truth that I began to find the series quite compulsive viewing as it neared its conclusion, I shall now heap scorn upon this piece of advertising.’
    • ‘The nail-biting wait for that waft of smoke has become compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘Ice hockey, downhill skiing, ski jumping and even the speed skating make for compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘This was compulsive viewing, but only because it was incredibly badly made.’
    • ‘This feature has just been added to my stats service, which makes it now not just interesting but compulsive viewing.’
    • ‘It is an average party album and could happily sit alongside something like Terrorvision, but it fails to provide any compulsive listening or interesting music.’
    • ‘War and disasters are indeed fascinating, they make compulsive viewing, especially if you're not in the firing line.’
    • ‘The opening section of the programme, in which the tiresome threesome rummage through the day's news stories, has fast become compulsive viewing, for all the wrong reasons.’
    • ‘Aside from their technical prowess, the performance was made compulsive viewing by the showmanship of the boys.’
    fascinating, compelling, gripping, riveting, engrossing, totally absorbing, enthralling, captivating, spellbinding, mesmerizing, mesmeric, entrancing
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Late 16th century (in the sense ‘compulsory’): from medieval Latin compulsivus, from compuls- ‘driven, forced’, from the verb compellere (see compel). compulsive (sense 1) (originally a term in psychology) dates from the early 20th century.