Impulsive behaviors and Parkinson’s Disease

“What are you doing?” cried Mr. Twitchy.  “Is this because of the Parkinson’s?”  I was trying to clean out a closet, but my timing was awful.  Our kids were coming for early dinner so that we could go to Rosh Hashanah services.  And here I was emptying a closet, as if I had nothing better to do.  After writing about getting rid of the clutter a couple of weeks ago, I just had to move ahead on my promise to do so.  And nothing was going to stop me, except of course, Mr. Twitchy, who brought me to my senses.

In Parkinson’s disease (PD), ICDs most commonly include pathological gambling, excessive spending and hypersexuality.

So when do our actions become obsessive or compulsive?  And why?  According to the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA):  “Impulse control disorders (ICDs) are behavioral disturbances in which a person fails to resist the drive to behave in ways that result in distress or impaired social and occupational functioning. In Parkinson’s disease (PD), ICDs most commonly include pathological gambling, excessive spending and hypersexuality. It is not uncommon for individuals to have more than one ICD concurrently or an ICD other than those listed above, i.e. impulsive eating, skin picking……It is the unusual extent and frequency of ICD behaviors that make them maladaptive and detrimental.”

Scientists have found a strong association between impulse control disorders and Parkinson’s meds , expecially the Dopamine agonists such as Requip and Mirapex.  However, a very small percentage of Parkies are afflicted by this.  Often a change in medications will reduce or eliminate the impulsive behavior.

That’s nice, but I think that the real reason is that those little “dopamine rushes” that we get from doing these things, whether it is going on a shopping spree and spending too much money, or sitting for hours in a casino, with each little win keeping us from leaving the table, are what is really driving us to continue following these impulses. It makes us feel good. And our dopamine deprived brains love it and keep us seeking more.

In my case, Mr. Twitchy often lets me know when I am focusing too much on the wrong thing, and he is usually right.  I could spend hours playing games on my phone, or doing something on my computer, totally losing track of the time.  The two hours in the morning before I have to leave for yoga often disappear and I find myself literally running out the door to get there on time (it is a 10 minute walk from my house).  When the impulse strikes, time management is impossible. But my brain is happy! So what’s the problem?

I suppose it could be worse.  I could be gambling or maxing out my credit cards somewhere.  But right now, I still need to clean out that closet.

One thought on “Impulsive behaviors and Parkinson’s Disease

  1. I SO identify with this! I could play Words with Friends for hours. And I find myself getting distracted into a project like changing out my summer clothes when I’m right in the middle of something else. I hadn’t thought of this behavior in quite the same way you describe it — “It makes us feel good. And our dopamine deprived brains love it and keep us seeking more.” Thanks for another terrific piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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