Police Psychology | I Can’t Stop Now!
Police psychology has to deal with numbers of issues, but one that we often misdiagnose follows.
“Hey! HEY !!! What the hell are you doing?”
“I’M CLEANING OUT YOUR DRIVEWAY. What’s it look like?”
“Tim, there is a 50-70 mile an hour wind. The snow is still coming down, like hard you know. It is a blizzard, no it is a snow hurricane. It’s not safe.” We duck as the wind carries a five foot wide unidentifiable piece of hard black plastic over our heads.
“Don’t worry. The snow blower is heavy so I won’t take off and be flying around.”
“What?! Get inside Tim. I’ll handle this tomorrow when the winds are done.”
“Nah, I got to get our driveways done before the playoff games at 3. You don’t need to stay.”
Of course I am going to stay and shovel. I can’t let the guy do my driveway all by himself, but I HATED IT! Blizzards are not fun with the wind-blown snow is acting like tiny shards of ice attacking your face. And of course the next day it is drifted as if we never touched it. Lord, transport me to a condo on the beach please!
Ever wonder what motivates some people to do this kind of thing, to persist beyond what is necessary, to not see the whole picture and the possibly cause damage by their actions?
Police Psychology | Fancy Names – Same Problem
Kleptomania, nymphomania, binge drinking, excessive overeating, oniomania (excessive spending/buying ), satyriasis (sex addiction), hypergraphia (excessive writing), drug addiction, and hundreds of other strange type behaviors, might all be connected by simply calling them a compulsive disorder. Compulsive lying is one to add to the list, except it seems to be a symptom of all the problems. Compulsion is an excessive urge to do some activity that takes over common sense and reality, such as shoveling in a blizzard. The compulsive disordered person is not only motivated toward an activity, but it becomes something they have to do to relieve pain, or curiosity, or get something off their mind. It is a door they have to step through. I personally am trying to find a person with philanthropimania which is the excessive urge to give away money. Told you there were hundreds of these things!
Everyone has heard of the obsessive-compulsive disordered person, in fact, OCD is a part of every “arm-couch” wannabee psychologist’s vernacular. There is two ways to look at OCD. One is that OCD is totally different than compulsive disorder. Obsessive is the thought, and compulsive is the action. Sometimes they both occur together, sometimes apart. We aren’t talking about the “O” part, just the CD. To most people when you discuss that with they will gaze upon you as if you are spouting off Chinese with a Greek alphabet. I like to say, “you tend to emphasize the compulsive part of OCD which is the action part. You’re an action guy/girl.” Lock them in with a positive. Psychotherapy is a sales business sometimes. In the second view of obsessive compulsive disorder, some psychologists say a line of thinking can become a compulsion that turns into an obsessive, but the compulsion is first. Essentially obsession is the perversion of the compulsion. I personally think the labels are load of crap. I want the compulsive person to think about it, at least think correctly. It is not logical and you shouldn’t do it. End of story and thought.
Police Psychology | Target Substitution
Compulsive people have a tendency to show compulsion across targets. When they do something they do it to the extreme. If that is binge drinking – they drink too much, or running up credit cards – they put too much on them, being compulsive about sex, or stealing from the petty cash drawer, it is extreme. Frequently, there is a strong history of shoplifting from stores, or stealing from their grandparents, parents or even friends when they were kids. Cheating on school tests, of course. There is a little mania mixed in also. In fact the genetic-link, strangely enough, may actually be of a positive characteristic. Look for history of compulsive disorders in the parents, uncles and siblings. Look for lower level manias, excessive generosity, look for very high grades, always being the top performer in a company, being a workaholic, because people with compulsive disorder are not sociopathic, they are actually a perversion of some of the admirable characteristics in the world. You are likely to see the good characteristics in their relatives, genetically linked to the person that finds trouble. What makes the difference between negative compulsion and turning the compulsion positive? Pepperoni pizza…,or in other words, we can guess at the answer, but no one has a definitive answer that holds up, so it might as well be pizza with my favorite topping.
I had a forensic client who had made millions of dollars in the entertainment industry. You’d recognize her name. She had everything she could want and more. She even had a trust fund that was paying her when she wasn’t making money in her career. She had a history that included periods of drug and alcohol use, periods of therapy 4-5 times a week by her choice, excessive spending, huge weight gains, starvation diets, times of isolation and times of being a party animal. She had gotten into giving loads of money to stupid fake charities, a few venereal diseases from promiscuity, and despite having all the money she needed, she was referred to my office by the court because she went on a shopping spree over thirty times taking something from the same department store, claiming each time she had forgotten to pay and making restitution. Thirty times we knew at least. A pure compulsive disorder, which she didn’t like hearing when my forensic report was finished. The court and the client asked me to see her to keep her out of facing a prison term. I did for a year and she got to the point that we would laugh about her compulsions that just hit her at the strangest times and places. She was, for all intent and purposes, cured as long as she was in therapy, but I warned her she would have to find someone else to see when she was finally moving to a European city. She kept in touch for about 7 weeks then found romance and I didn’t hear from her for four years when she called to say she had done well with her compulsions for a couple of years, but gave into them a year earlier and could I send the report to her attorney. She never went to therapy. Guess she needed a snow blower to keep her from flying around!
As far as the brain, people with temporal lobe damage tend to be compulsive in tests of people who had car accidents and sports injuries. This gives way to the theory that temporal lobe damage causes compulsion. One theory I guess. They also show differences in structures in the orbitofrontal cortex and striatum of the brain, the basal ganglia and the caudate nuclei. The latter group can be more genetic. There is even a study that shows that a suicide attempt with a .22 that didn’t kill the person actually stopped their obsessive and compulsive behaviors. Not sure about that one, but it suggests if your compulsions are getting out of control, just have a shot, I guess! If that doesn’t work for you, below is the way I work with compulsive disorders.
- I hate to go all AA on you, but the first step of AA is real important here. The first step is to “Recognize You are Powerless” over the urges and the compulsions. It is locked in the brain, in the structures and the chemicals inside your body and you will feel this way over a variety of different things. Recognize that they occur in you and you have to take action against them because it is your natural state. Or help others recognize this if you are their therapist or family member. It is essential that you not operate in a vacuum any longer, recognize what your/their personality tendency is and control it or re-direct it to make it work for you.
- You’ve got to “Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk.” You say to people “I get compulsive sometimes, so I don’t want to get started on this” or “you will have to monitor me to keep me under control.” This is especially important for family members, spouses, even your kids when you get older because they are in the line of fire from your compulsiveness. And then you have to listen to others when they say you are getting compulsive or say you are getting obsessed with something. Listen and change what you are doing. Keep It Simple. Self-help groups and being honest with a good therapist go a long way to helping you to stay in control, and are essential to helping you get in control after you are caught in a situation because of compulsive acts. The emphasis is on honesty with the group or with a therapist.
- There is most likely damage from a compulsive act. You have to “Pay the Piper” from your previous acts and not look to shortcut it. You have to be responsible regardless of how hard it is and the number of months and even years it takes to pay for your mistake. This does two things. One, it reminds you of your act and makes you feel like you wouldn’t want to repeat it. And secondly, it gives you less resources to play around with which can cause you to control you compulsions. You need to feel the pressure either way to see that you will control your compulsions in the future.
(How about that, three advice clichés from a guy that hates not being original. Actually, I fought off my compulsiveness of being unique. See it does work!)
Blog Administrator: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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