A compulsive phenotype characterizes several neuropsychiatric illnesses – including but not limited to – schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. Because of its perceived etiological heterogeneity, it is challenging to disentangle the specific neurophysiology that precipitates compulsive behaving. Using polydipsia (or non-regulatory water drinking), we describe candidate neural substrates of compulsivity. We further postulate that aberrant neuroplasticity within cortically projecting structures [i.e., the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST)] and circuits that encode homeostatic emotions (thirst, hunger, satiety, etc.) underlie compulsive drinking. By transducing an inaccurate signal that fails to represent true homeostatic state, cortical structures cannot select appropriate and adaptive actions. Additionally, augmented dopamine (DA) reactivity in striatal projections to and from the frontal cortex contribute to aberrant homeostatic signal propagation that ultimately biases cortex-dependent behavioral selection. Responding becomes rigid and corresponds with both erroneous, inflexible encoding in both bottom-up structures and in top-down pathways. How aberrant neuroplasticity in circuits that encode homeostatic emotion result in the genesis and maintenance of compulsive behaviors needs further investigation.