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15 March 2004

Impulse control problems?

The greater numbers of casino licenses being granted which has lead to casinos popping up all over South Africa, as well as the introduction of a National Lottery, have brought the spotlight onto a spectrum of disorders, classified as impulse control disorders.

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The greater numbers of casino licenses being granted which has lead to casinos popping up all over South Africa, as well as the introduction of a National Lottery, have brought the spotlight onto a spectrum of disorders, classified as impulse control disorders.

Into this spectrum fall disorders like Pathological Gambling, Kleptomania (stealing), Pyromania (starting fires), Trichotillomania (obsessive hair pulling), Intermittent Explosive disorder (uncontrollable outbursts of anger), and other Impulse Control disorders not otherwise specified, for example, compulsive shopping. Although these disorders can be likened to addictions, and have been often associated with other disorders, like Obsessive Compulsive disorder and the Eating Disorders, they are slightly different and as such have been given a separate category.

Even though this group of disorders may not seem as serious as Major Depression or Schizophrenia, and as a result are overlooked, they can be devastating. Some could result in imprisonment, the loss of one's family, financial ruin and a great deal of emotional suffering.

Sadly, like most other mental illnesses, there are a number of myths that surround these disorders. Many people view them as merely signs of a weak character or a poor sense of morality. This stigma prevents people speaking out and from seeking the help they need. A fair amount of denial is also seen. Most sufferers can't even admit there is a problem, and if they do, they convince themselves it is under control.

How then do I know if I have a problem?
The answer here is that it differs from person to person. Gambling once a week may be okay for some people but not for others. It depends on your reasons for gambling, how you feel about it, and how it is impacting your life. If your behaviour is causing you any pain or guilt, interfering in your relationships, your work performance or your daily functioning, or is endangering yourself or others, you have a problem. Seek help.

There is help for these conditions. A number of options are available, from medication to counselling to support groups. The Depression and Anxiety Support Group’s Substance Abuse Helpline can be contacted Monday to Friday, between 8am and 7pm, Saturdays, from 8am to 5pm, and on Sundays, from 9am to 1pm, on 0800 11 8392. If you suspect someone you love may be suffering from one of these disorders, offer support, and encourage them to seek help.

Post a question to Cybershrink.

 
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