Got anger and feel like slamming something against the wall? Or perhaps you're just expressing a light, quirky sense of humor? Either way, the Dammit Doll, a 12-inch, stuffed fabric doll marketed as a novelty anger-release tool, is one hot item around the country that has been flying off the shelves of a few Naples retailers recently. Local merchants such as Bruno, Exquisite Gift Shop and the Paper Merchant are stocking up again in the hopes that the trend will continue.
But why is this little stuffed "person" so popular? Is the human replica a benign gift, or could it be a sign of these times when road rage is a real concern and rampage killing is too frequent front-page news?
Rosemary McCullough, a psychologist at the Counseling Associates in Naples, said while hitting a Dammit Doll is not going to have far-reaching consequences in most cases, not dealing with the reasons for the anger could.
"It's one thing to get gratification out of an action (such as hitting a Dammit Doll), but what are the consequences?" she asked. " The question is, if you're hitting a Dammit Doll one day, that's your aggression. And it can be systematic, and indicate that there's something going on there. The issue becomes: What's going to be the next outlet you use to get that out?
"It certainly raises the question about why people need to get out or manage their anger in some way."
The company was founded by Californian Drew Lvich, an entrepreneur who claims a technology handicap and less than model good looks as his reasons for starting the Dammit Doll venture about a year and a half ago.
According to Lewis, Lvich purchased the concept from its inventor, and now owns the registration. Lvich is enjoying so much success in its salesthat the company recently introduced a larger 26-inch version of the doll called "The Pillow," said Nancy Lewis, vice president of sales for Dammit Doll, LLC. It's meant to sit in a chair or on a sofa or in a college dorm, she said.
"We're not out to solve the world's problems or make any statements, or promote anything except 'Here's a great doll,' " she said. "It's a fun impulse item, and it makes people laugh when they pick it up and read the poem (that comes attached on the doll). Everybody wants one. It's a feel-good item."
And people do laugh. Annette Mullaney of Naples plunked down the $14.99 for one.
"I picked one up and I thought it was hysterical," she said. "I got it for my daughter. I got it so she could release her anger; for more of a joke, though. She doesn't have an anger problem. She started hitting everybody with it immediately."
Naples retailer Craig Hoffman, co-owner of Exquisite Gift Shop, said the shop sold hundreds of the unique dolls at Christmas, and had people waiting to get their hands on the item — for a friend, of course.
"I even gave one to my 89-year-old mother, because she is so frustrated with her health issues. We said, 'Take it out on the doll. Just beat the doll'. The reaction we've had at the store has been just phenomenal," Hoffman said.
Bruno Dhaine, owner of Br uno, another Naples specialty gift store agrees: "The sales of the doll are incredible. I think it is a good thing for the woman who is mad at her husband," he said, laughing.
Still, Deigh Holland, M.A., a Lee County high school psychology teacher, finds the creation discomforting.
"I do not think the dolls are appropriate as a displacement of aggression, and I believe it promotes it," she said. "It appears that this is a marketing ploy and they are targeting teens. While I get the overall concept of the doll, I think it is a tool that certain teens would not have the emotional or physical development to use properly or know how far and at what level to take it without proper supervision" such as a parent or therapist.
Holland's views may have validity. According to a 2012 study published in July in Archives of General Psychiatry, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adolescents have experienced an anger attack that involved threatening violence, destroying property or engaging in violence toward others at some point in their lives. These severe attacks of uncontrollable anger are much more common among adolescents than previously recognized, a new study led by researchers from Harvard Medical School finds.
Local therapist Kimberly Rogers, who specializes in, among other areas, play therapy, said while they do not use the Dammit Doll at their practice, that's not to say they can't be effective.
But she added, "As with any emotional challenge, there's never one answer for everyone. In my professional opinion, suggesting hitting a pillow or doll as a release of anger can become dangerous if it sparks more aggression. Others, however, could benefit."
George Buonocore, owner of The Paper Merchant, said to keep it light.
"They're selling like crazy. It's a stupid thing, like a pet rock, that you get somebody when you don't know what else to give them. I don't think it's a violence thing really. They are definitely fun."
The notion of the doll itself may simply give a humorous spin to otherwise penned-up emotion. One store sold some to a breast cancer survivor support group to include as catharsis in their gift bag.
However, experts have this warning: Watch for signs that you need help, such as a desire to actually hurt yourself or others. Also, poor impulse control indicates the need for professional intervention, not a doll.