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February 20, 2018

Out of the Shadows - Some Understandings of Impulse Control

By Dr. Richard Boyum

1. Uncontrollable anger
2. Compulsive gambling
3. Compulsive spending
4. Risky sexual behavior
5. Frequent intoxication, tobacco use, or other drug use
6. Risky behavior when driving

Each of the above listed behaviors is often referred to as shadow syndromes. Individuals who participate in these behaviors with significant frequency put themselves at significant risk. While most of us do something foolish once in a while, a subset of individuals develop this high-risk taking behavior pattern with increasing frequency. Clearly, high-risk behavior can decrease the quality of a person's life and create tension in their relationships with others. Any individual with these difficulties responds well to counseling intervention. A cognitive behavioral approach to help individuals make better choices is often very effective. Research has also begun to show that there may be a genetic predisposition to such behavior patterns. Individuals who demonstrate continual patterns of high-risk may be deficient in neurotransmitters and cortisol. In addition to counseling interventions, individuals who demonstrate high-risk behavioral patterns often respond well to antidepressants. These medications boost the level of neurotransmitters in an individual's system. This increase in neurotransmitters seems to allow individuals literally to be a little more "thoughtful", and consequently, cautious in the choices that they make. For most individuals the seratonin reuptake inhibitors are the category of medications that seem most appropriate.

If you are experiencing one of the shadow syndrome-related behaviors, you may want to talk with a counselor/psychologist or physician about whether or not medication and/or counseling might help you avoid behavioral patterns that decrease the quality of your life.