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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #17 of 52: Dissociative Disorders | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #19 of 52: Perception and Distortion of Reality »

March 28, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #18 of 52: Impulse and Control Disorders

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- Here we go again. I am about to say something that will probably bring out the usual suspects swinging at me. As it were, they seem to believe that if they deny that an issue exists that it does not exist, or that if they say that psychology is a pseudo science…which it may well be…that what it says does not matter.

(Every therapist hears that one daily: a teenager is forced by his parents to come to therapy and he says, “Them shrinks do not know anything”. In saying so, he convinces himself not to listen to them. This sort of ego defense mechanism, Psychoanalysts used to call resistance, blocking, transference issues etc. We do not want other people to understand us and if they claim to do so we dismiss them as quacks. What else is new under the sun?)

Many Nigerians have impulse control issues. Some, in fact, seem to believe that their acting out somehow makes them powerful. These folks intermittently explode in rage and verbally and or physically abuse other persons and seem to think that they are being powerful in doing so. If they are told that such behavior is considered a mental disorder, of course, they would be confused and probably see the bad news bearer as foolish.

I have been called all sorts of names but I must do what I came here to do: help folks become mentally healthy.

Impulse control disorders are those disorders that have something to do with inability to control ones temper and behaviors. There are many of them, including Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Kleptomania, Pathological Gambling, and Pyromania and so on.

Briefly, in Intermittent Explosive Disorder a fellow looses his control and flips into rage and acts like he is insane for a while then regain his normal composure. In that angry mood he talks loudly, verbally abuses people, and may even hit people. He may kill; make no mistake about it for the angry man is an insane man.

In anger certain neurotransmitters are poured out into the body and some of these shut down the cortical part of the brain and accentuate the hypothalamus; they place the individual in a defensive mode and he behaves like an attacked animal trying to defend itself hence fights back. Thus, he can kill the person he perceives, rightly or wrongly, as his attacker. The perceived attack that elicited his anger response my be false, that is, it may be based on wrong interpretation of another person’s behavior. An innocent comment can be misconstrued as an attack on one, as demeaning of ones assumed great importance.

After the explosive behavior, the individual returns to his normal sensorium and appears like a level headed, calm person. But every once in a while something triggers him to resort to disproportionate anger, relative to the trigger.

Consider a man who believed that you called him an insulting name and that you put him down. Consider an Igbo man who believed that you put his ethnic group down. He felt angry and attacked you, verbally and or physically. Thereafter, he returned to being a seeming level headed fellow. He has intermittent explosive personality (disorder). If you look at his personality you would see a pattern of exploding at people every once in a while. You would perceive that he has been doing so since childhood, for personality is habitual pattern of responding to other people and is formed in childhood.

Perhaps he explodes at those he feels insulted him or insulted those who he identifies with. The underlying psychological issue is that he feels inadequate and wants to feel adequate and constructed a false superior self concept for himself and for his group and identifies with that fictional self construct. He presents it to other people to validate.

He tells lies to make him seem that important self. (Such persons are compulsive liars.) If others see through his lies and sees him as like all of us, an ordinary person, he feels demeaned and feels angry and strikes out at you, verbally or physically.

His childish anger is an effort to compel you to accept him as the fictional important self his neurotic ego wants to be taken as.

Neurotics feel narcissistic rage and explode in anger every now and then. Their vanity is so fragile that they feel pricked by folk’s normal innocent comments. The neurotic, as Karen Horney noted, is a proud person, he takes pride in a false important self. Healing for him is for him to let go of his false superior self and accept the reality of our sameness and equality.

We are not talking therapy here. We are merely identifying issues for folks to be aware of and go seek help if they think that they apply to them.

Kleptomania is stealing in a compulsive manner. What are Nigerian politicians but kleptomaniacs? These people are so mentally disordered that they no longer know that stealing is wrong. They actually do not know that there are people who would rather die than take a penny that does not belong to them.

Sometime ago I was in gym and apparently my wallet fell out. A white boy picketed it up and looked up my address from my drivers license and placed the whole wallet in an envelop, wrote my address on it, and put the right amount of stamp on it and mailed it to me. The twenty five dollars in the wallet was still there. He did not take it.

Now imagine the same situation happening in Nigeria and visualize what the boy would do? Take the money and credit cards and throw away the wallet? Do not think that he has done anything wrong? We are producing a nation of criminals and do not bother to think about it. We think that it is cute to take what does not belong to us.

Kleptomania is considered a mental disorder. I suppose thieving Nigerian politicians would shrug this off and see it as a white man’s issues, right? After they have made a mess of their country, they take off to the white man’s land to experience a well ordered society and live in peace and not worry of armed robbers coming to steal their ill gotten wealth. It is a pity what Nigerians are doing to themselves, turning just about every body into an antisocial personality, a thief and a murderer and thinking that it is normal state of affairs.

Pyromania, as its name implies, consists in taking pleasure in setting things on fire. There are people who set houses etc on fire and enjoy watching them burn down. In Nigeria public officials set government buildings on fire, to burn documents that would incriminate them.

Gambling disorders occur where folks find themselves addicted to compulsive gambling. Some folks would borrow money to gamble with; indeed, some would not eat food and instead use the little money they have to buy that lotto ticket, hoping to hit the jackpot. Baiting on horses and other forms of gambling is rampart everywhere.

These impulse control disorders are very rampart in Nigeria. Folks, therefore, ought to pause to find out whether they have them or not. Does your child like to set things on fire? Does he like to kill animals and seem to enjoy doing so? If yes, you have a budding problematic man in your hands. But since we do not define problems as problems, perhaps, you do not think that this is a serious issue? Well, your cavalier opinion not withstanding this is a serious issue that you ought to nip the problem in the bud.

My goal here is not to dwell on treatment issues but to highlight impulse control issues, so that you may become aware of them and seek help if they are your issue.

In the last two weeks we talked mostly about pathological issues. But human beings are not only their disorders. Even the certified mentally ill, schizophrenics, for example, are actually normal most of the time and only psychotic for a brief period of the time. Beginning next week we shall talk about normal psychology, such issues as learning theory, perception, and memory and so on. Enjoy.

Posted by Administrator at March 28, 2006 01:03 AM


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