What is Impulse-Control Disorder?
Learn more about impulse-control disorder, its causes, its symptoms, and available treatment options here.
What is Impulse Control Disorder?
Impulse-control disorders are a group of mental health conditions that stem from impulsive behavior and lack of self-control. These conditions cause people to engage in behaviors that they may know are harmful, but cannot stop due to impulse control issues. For example, an individual with an impulse-control disorder might keep excessively spending money even though they know it will lead to financial problems.1
Impulses are behaviors that occur in response to an internal or external cue and can either be pleasurable or undesirable. For example, impulse-control disorders may make individuals act without thinking about consequences because the impulse takes control first.
Impact of Impulse-Control Disorders
Impulse control disorders can often be associated with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. People with impulse-control disorders may also feel guilt and shame after engaging in impulsive behavior. Sometimes, individuals with impulse control issues don’t understand that their behavior is wrong or harmful until after it has occurred.
When an Impulsive Behavior Becomes an Impulsive Disorder
Impulse Control Disorder Statistics
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has recently recognized impulse control disorder as its own distinct diagnostic category.3
According to data from the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), about 10.5% of the general population is estimated to have an impulse control disorder or other issues with self-control.4
Symptoms of Impulse Control Disorder
Impulse control disorder symptoms often begin in adolescence or early adulthood. Symptoms of impulse control disorder can be triggered by environmental cues, people, certain medications, alcohol abuse, or previous trauma. Some behaviors listed below are often associated with an impulsive behavior disorder. The list is not exhaustive, and these symptoms may not always manifest in all people with an impulse control disorder.
Symptoms of impulse control disorder may include:
Causes of Impulse Control Disorder
Impulse control disorder causes can be attributed to an array of factors. For example, intense trauma or mental illness may lead to the manifestation of various impulse control disorder symptoms. Some impulse control disorder causes include:
Common Types of Impulse Control Disorder
Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a mental health condition characterized by negative, hostile, and defiant behaviors toward authority figures that often begin before age eighteen. The impulse control disorder symptoms of ODD include arguing with adults, acting out aggressively, and becoming angry when asked to follow the rules or do tasks.
Conduct disorder is an impulse control disorder marked by a pattern of antisocial behavior. This includes behaviors such as violence towards others, destruction of property, deceitfulness, or theft.
Kleptomania is a type of impulse-control disorder characterized by the inability to resist urges to steal. It is characterized by the conscious awareness that these behaviors are wrong but an inability to stop them.
Pyromania is an impulsive behavior disorder characterized by the obsessive desire to set fires. People with this disorder often feel compelled to start fires and cannot stop themselves from doing so.
Risk Factors for Impulse Control Disorder
Several risk factors may contribute to the development of impulse control disorders. These may include:
Treatment of Impulse Control Disorder
Impulse control disorder treatment usually depends on the cause and type of disorder. For example, medications are used to treat pyromania, whereas treatment for conduct disorder involves counseling and therapy on impulse control techniques.6
The most common treatment techniques for impulse control disorder are detailed below.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps people learn to recognize and change unhealthy behaviors. CBT can be used to treat impulse control disorder and other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. It uses a combination of principles from cognitive psychology and behavioral modification to help people change their behaviors by changing their thought patterns.
With the aid of a therapist, family members may be able to help a person with an impulse control disorder find ways to cope with urges or use healthy ways of responding to stress or strong emotions instead of giving in to bad habits. Family therapy for impulse control disorder can also help family members learn how to communicate more effectively about their feelings.
Parental Management Training (PMT)
Parental Management Training (PMT) is a treatment for children ages four to twelve with impulse-control disorders. PMT is based on the principles of applied behavior analysis and is delivered in a group format. In PMT groups, parents learn how to teach their children to control their behavior using positive reinforcement. Parents also learn how to use consequences to reduce problem behaviors.
Multisystemic Therapy (MST)
Impulse control disorders like compulsive gambling are difficult to treat. The most promising approach is a psychosocial intervention called multisystemic therapy (MST), designed to treat impulsive behavior in adults and youths.
Social Skills Training
Social skills training is an impulse control treatment that helps people with different types of impulse control disorders recognize and avoid situations that trigger their addictive behaviors. They also learn how to handle their emotions healthily so they don’t feel the need to act out.
Find Treatment Programs for Impulse Control Disorders at Pacific Beach Health
Impulse control disorders are treatable with the appropriate care plan implemented by professionals with the proper training at a facility such as Pacific Beach Health. Located in the San Diego area, Pacific Beach Health was established to help adolescents and adults living with impulse control disorders. We use a holistic approach to help everyone gain control over their behaviors and impulses.
Anxiety and impulse control disorders can often coexist. At Pacific Beach Health, we ensure that each treatment plan for impulse control disorder is individualized to achieve the best results for each patient, regardless of any coexisting or preexisting conditions. Our treatment methods are value-driven, collaborative, and focused on experiential therapy to ensure a smooth path to recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a lack of impulse control and are ready to seek professional help, reach out to Pacific Beach Health today to begin your journey toward regaining control.