Control These Impulses!

Little Loveena went to school one day and came back with a new pencil from somewhere. The parents were somewhat surprised and asked her who gave this. Loveena coolly said she had lifted it from her friend’s box. It was a bit shocking that she actually didn’t need that pencil and her mom keeps a box full of pencils for Loveena at home.

None too serious as one may feel it is a nascent stage of a serious disorder. Psychologists call it ‘Impulse Control Disorder’. Commonest examples are an impulse to shop lift and pick crockery from hotels etc. This is called kleptomania.

Gambling is man’s age old weakness. There are people who bet on line, bet on horses, cricket, play poker and Rummy etc. If the urge for this is uncontrollable and irresistible it is an Impulse Control Disorder.

There are people who go to a mall and buy so many things which are never required as if in some kind of mania. Some have an excessive craving for precious metals and diamonds.

All these can be grouped under the same disorder. These disorders are characterized by inability in resisting urges to engage in behaviors that are excessive and unreasonable. No doubt these could assume embarrassing proportions resulting in guilt feeling. These habits are hazardous and are ultimately disastrous to one and family. I remember to have read news years back where a very rich lady of very high status in society hid a silk sari in her bag. The salesman who witnessed this shop lifting reported this to the cashier who without raising any hue and cry billed for this extra sari and saved the situation. When her husband questioned why he is being billed for two when she bought only one, cashier insisted there are two saris. The madam had to finally say yes for two. So such habits can become very embarrassing and it may tarnish one’s image in public. Shop lifting has become very common these days despite the cameras.

How do we remedy this?

Pharmacotherapy studies have been conducted in order to find a remedy for this disorder. Treatments have been highly successful in few persons and they responded well to treatment. However one has to say many such tendencies go unnoticed or even if noticed, un treated. More of research into potential and effective therapy is definitely needed. Findings into the core aspects of these disorders need to be substantiated and coordinated to result into potential cure.

Because impulsive behaviors have been associated with low levels of the Serotonin Metabolite 5- Hydroxyindole Acetic Acid within the cerebro-spinal fluid, decreased Serotonin function within the prefrontal cortex may contribute to Impulse Control Disorders. Thus, drugs targeting Serotonin neurotransmission may provide the answer.

Kleptomania

Kleptomania is the incapacity to arrest urges to pick up something somewhere that doesn’t belong to you. It is a kind of compulsive stealing mania. Kleptomania is a serious mental health disorder that can cause much embarrassment and emotional upsets to everyone in the family, think of the disgrace it brings forth.

Many people with this filthy habit hide it under the carpet until someone unexpected pulls out the carpet itself. Suffering the secret shame many people do not solicit the help of a psychologist. Although there’s no ultimate cure for kleptomania, counseling, medication etc may make a significant U turn possible.

One of the funniest aspects in this that people pick up items that they don’t really need, like that pencil in the Loveena story. The end result may be increased uneasiness, tension, or anxiety whether actually someone did see or not. Some may feel guilt, and shame or they get upset for fear of arrest disgrace etc. There are acute stages of this disorder when patients feel the kick, thrill and pleasure. Stealing gives them some kind of relief and gratification .There is no guarantee but that the urge may not come back. But the intensity of the urge may vanish and come back. It is something that happens as fast and unplanned as if unconsciously. The job is mostly done alone. Such stealing takes place in shopping malls, restaurants, other public places and sometimes at a friend’s place. The lifted stuff is stashed away or given off in some unknown place.

If someone in the family is observed to be with this flaw let us show understanding and never accuse. It is not anything deliberate. It is a disease that requires to be cured.

Gambling

Gambling in India is under strict Govt. control except for a few categories like horse racing and lotteries. Gambling in India, being a state subject entitles the states to make and formulate laws to govern such activities within their states. Still illegal gambling is rampant in many states.

Many people start gambling as a casual pastime to slip later into the deep well of serious addiction.

Gambling becomes problematic when it is something out of control. Its devastating effects damage a person’s financial and social standing. He becomes unable to concentrate on profession. Gambling like substance addiction, indicate release of dopamine in the brain in large quantity than usual. Dopamine is a “feel good” neurotransmitter, which special signaling chemical activates the reward centers in the brain. Your response then would be “This is cool! Give me more!” What begins as a harmless enjoyment takes a ruinous turn into a compulsive urge.

Then what happen to our body are interesting .The dopamine centers which should be working to produce a normal level of dopamine become lazy. They stop functioning and instead coolly wait around for gambling to do the work for them. This very natural physiological phenomenon creates tolerance, which drives a need for more and more gambling in order to maintain statuesque.

Several studies show that gambling, like substance use, may have come through genetic influences. Some such persons are more vulnerable. As we discussed earlier we find lower levels of serotonin in them. They have a tendency to act on sudden impulses looking for immediate rewards and gratification. Like in the case of Kleptomania they are oblivious at that point of time about the long-term consequences.

Gamblers tend to lose friends for most obvious reasons like always asking for money. They suffer from restlessness, anxiety and insomnia. They become irritable and short tempered especially if you try to talk about stopping this or talk about the attendant dangers of gambling. It is not easy to walk away from this habit since it gets hold of you like the tentacles of an octopus. Gamblers in leisure time visualize their past thrilling experiences and their minds are always preoccupied there. The urge becomes more pronounced when they are in a bad emotional turmoil or something upsetting has happened. Heavy losses would actually prompt them to throw more money. If you talk to a gambler he would never admit about his involvement and its extent.

‘Buy more’ Mania

There are many people in India who are simply unable to control the urge and impulse while buying things. They buy far in excess of their needs quite oblivious to the money being wasted. They do this because they get immense satisfaction that they got a load full of things abundant for 3 families like hers. She or he wants to make a declaration to all that they have enough to spend and can afford to waste. It is their prerogative they say. A section of these people may by the end of a month find all their credit cards have exceeded limits. But soon after the day funds are replenished, the same habit is repeated.

For compulsive buyer maniacs shopping is thrilling, they care little to read price tags and compare prices with that of similar products or examine quality, scientific studies conducted on impulsive buyers reveal many astonishing facts. It provides self assurance and added confidence that ‘I can spend and I don’t care’.

It is not as if some of these impulsive buyers don’t regret for having purchased several worthless goods of no use. There are people who spend as high as 50 percentage of their income in shopping malls. Compulsive buyers are aware of their problem and the mounting debts and inability to meet credit card dues etc but yet they are constantly unable to resist the urge to buy.

Shoppers who are not in a sound economic position may pretend as rich and fantasize their wealth. They go to the best malls and create a false impression on others. It is nothing but an attempt to cover up their true position. This way they try to run away from the reality of their dull and drab existence.

Compulsive shoppers being more anxious and depressed most of the time, they use shopping as a solace. There are people who go on a mad shopping spree when they are emotionally upset. Some feel their tension getting released while shopping.

Varieties of ‘Impulse Control Disorders’ discussed above are a reality in life which we see all around us and therefore it is our prime duty to educate and find remedy to the extent possible.


About the Author

Jose Vazhuthanapilly, BSc., LLB, DBM, CAIIB Retired in 2008 as AGM from State Bank of India. He had worked as a visiting faculty in the Bank’s Staff Training Centers for 5 years. He is a writer with 20 books to his credit including books on self-help / psychology. He resides in Ernakulam, Kochi. He is active also in social service. He can be contacted at josevazhuthanapilly@gmail.com

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