Sunday, April 3, 2011

Impulsive buying in ADHD and the need to be a compulsive winner

A patient reported that she cannot have credit card because of her ADHD. She is too impulsive and invariably spends all the credit she has in buying things for her and her two children, even if she does not need them.
"Why would you buy something if you don't need it."
"Because it makes me feel like a winner."
In a previous blog I discussed how drug addicts always want to win. In addicts the concept of winning becomes truncated to procuring of drugs. The whole ritual of finding the next fix - against all odds - becomes the goal of life.
In ADHD too, the easy distraction is a reflection of the intense need to be a winner. Unable to face defeat - generally Oedipal defeat where one has to accept one's inferiority to one's father - the boy is filled with desire for revenge and winning [against the father]. Winning becomes all important. And if the real world does not provide the opportunity - sitting in the classroom and listening to boring lectures is not a way to feel a grand winner - the boy goes into daydreaming
where he can be a swashbuckling adventurer or better still a magical invincible superhero like Batman or Spiderman.
The need to win makes it impossible for him to complete a task successfully because at the first
difficulty encountered his mind wants to rush away from it to start another task where there is greater prospect of coming out a winner or to the fantasy world where success can be had by simply imagining it. The desire for instant winning leaves no scope for patience and step by
step achievements - postponement of instant gratification -which is the only way to accomplish complex multi-step goals.
The patient who maxes out all the credit card, freely admits that she is highly competitive and has a very strong masculine side to her. She was a tomboy and she continues to compete with her husband by imagining all kinds of secret affairs that he is having with other women and then placing all kinds of controls on him to prevent such [imagined] affairs. Since she cannot make love to other women [substitutes for her mother] , she wants to make sure he does not too. Yet imagining her husband in extra-marital love affairs also satisfies her own unconscious desire to make love to women and beat men in that game. One part of her mind wants to be a womanizer like men, while the other part of her mind condemns this and she displaces this conflict upon her husband with whom she identifies and then tries to control.
Since this urge to win against men is so strong and without outlet in real life, for she is married with kids and also enjoys being a wife and a mother, it tries to emerge in every sphere of her life. She wants to be a winner in all things big or small. So the minute she gets hold of any credit card she rushes to buy something.
For shopping, and thus coming into possession of something, is a form of winning. Women, who often go through life feeling they were dispossessed of something they once had and have been handed defeat when they should have been the winner, it should not surprise us that they love to shop to fill this void and feel like a winner.

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