Self Destructive Behavior and Role of the I function
The I function describes all behavior associated with the notion of self. Is there really a specific I function and what is its role exactly? Because the I function is linked to the self, one would think that it would prevent harmful behaviors. However, there are cases where the I function does not intervene to terminate detrimental actions for example addiction and a mental disorder called Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. In both cases, a person is harming themselves and can not seem to stop. Does the I function play a role in self-destructive behavior? By researching addiction, more specifically alcoholism, and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, it is clear that the I function can be overruled by other structures of the brain even when harm to the body is one of the final outcomes.
Addiction is defined as a physical and psychological dependence on a substance or behavior (1). Initially the behavior simply satisfies the person but turns into addiction when strong urges accompany the behavior and the person feels that it is needed to avoid painful feelings. What is causing the urges? The brain can be divided into two parts, the primitive brain and the new brain or the neocortex (2). The primitive or beast brain is responsible for survival appetites which are associated with physical pleasure. However, in order to satisfy the urges, the beast brain must communicate to the neocortex and cause the necessary motions to get the drug or exhibit the behavior. According to Rational Recovery (2), the neocortex, or you can overcome the beast brain. Is this alluding to the I function? If this is true, why did the behavior become an addiction in the first place? Where was the I function during that first drink, or while biting that first nail? Why is it so hard to break an addiction?
Studies have shown that addictions such as alcohol abuse, smoking, cocaine, etc, change the chemistry of the brain. The three examples above increase the release of dopamine at synapses. This increase corresponds with satisfaction or reward (3). There is evidence of a mutation of the dopamine receptor gene (D2A1) in alcoholics. This mutation was present in 69% of severe alcoholics and 20% of non-alcoholics (4). This mutation does not mean that alcoholism is always genetic. The study was also done on Vietnam Veterans who had post-traumatic stress disorder due to severe combat conditions (4). This mutation was found in 40%-55% of these patients (4). Veterans were not born to go to war so the mutation could be caused by a chemical change due to the bodyis response to high stress. One hypothesis is that the D2A1 is affecting the degree of expression of the genes that are involved with addictive behaviors. The genes have not yet been identified (4).
Dopamine is associated with seratonin. Seratonin is affiliated with the part of the brain responsible for controlling emotions, paying attention, and thinking before acting (4). Research was...