Chapter 1 – Healthy Behaviors and Wellness

Lifestyle Modification Barriers

Dr. James M. Olson, a psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario, London, has identified several psychological barriers that commonly prevent people from taking action, even when inaction poses a threat to their health. These barriers occur during 3 stages of behavior modification: admission of the problem, initial attempts to change, and long-term change as outlined below:

Barriers to Admission of the Problem

The first step in lasting change is admitting a problem exists. People often fail to change behavior that poses a risk to their health because they deny a risk exists, trivialize their personal risk, feel invulnerable, make a faulty conceptualization, (i.e., they attribute early warning signs to a benign cause), or experience debilitating emotions when contemplating preventative measures.

Barriers to Initial Attempts to Change

At this stage, people acknowledge the need to change but struggle to accomplish their goals. This failure is a result of lack of knowledge, low self-efficacy (the belief in one’s own ability to succeed at change), and dysfunctional attitudes.

Barriers to Long-term Change

Just because a person has experienced success in changing a behavior, that doesn’t mean the change is permanent. Barriers to long-term change include cognitive and motivational drift (diminishing enthusiasm for the need to change), lack of perceived improvement, lack of social support, and lapses.

To read more about these barriers to change, including strategies for overcoming these barriers, read Dr. Olson’s article linked below:

Psychological Barriers to Behavior Change

A presentation on overcoming barriers to change by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NHS) is linked below:

Overcoming Barriers to Change


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Health and Fitness for Life Copyright © 2019 by Dawn Markell and Diane Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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