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Understanding Impulse Control Disorder

Most individuals will act on impulse at one time or another. This could be anything from eating a slice of cake when you’re on a diet or buying concert tickets when you’re trying to save money. However, when a person has an impulse control disorder, they have trouble controlling their emotions and behaviors despite negative outcomes. Impulse Control Disorders makes individuals unable to resist the urge to do something

Signs and Symptoms of Impulse Control Disorder 

There are certain signs and symptoms that individuals with an Impulse Control Disorder will display. It’s not always easy to diagnosis this disorder, but being aware of the symptoms could encourage individuals who are struggling to seek help. Some of the signs include:

  • Behavioral Symptoms. Certain behaviors such as lying, stealing and acting aggressive or violent may be cause for attention.
  • Cognitive Symptoms. Becoming increasingly irritable or agitated and trouble concentrating are some cognitive symptoms that are commonly associated with impulse control disorder.
  • Emotional Symptoms. If an individual is displaying emotional symptoms such as low self-esteem, becoming socially withdrawn, and seeming detached and anxious along with impulsive behaviors may be a sign of impulse control disorder. 

Common Impulse Control Disorders

Impulse control disorders are mental health conditions that involve disruptive and conduct disorders. Some of the most common impulse control disorders include:

  • Kleptomania: Individuals with kleptomania will impulsively and uncontrollably steal unnecessary items. These stolen items hold no financial or personal value and individuals will often give them to other people or even throw them away. A person may have an urge to steal when they are feeling anxious or frustrated. Afterward, they often feel a sense of relief and gratification. It’s not uncommon for individuals with kleptomania to have legal, career, family, and personal issues due to their behaviors.
  • Pyromania: People with pyromania will purposely and repeatedly set fires. They have a strong obsession with fire and feel a compulsive need to set them, with no other reason besides their attraction. 
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder: Also known as IED, Intermittent Explosive Disorder is associated with impulsive angry outbursts. The episodes are usually triggered by a minor inconvenience or issue and last about half an hour. An individual will take their aggression out on people, animals, or property. These outbursts usually result in legal, relationship, and career issues. 
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Individuals who have Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) will challenge authority figures and frequently lose their temper. They become easily annoyed, angry, and resentful while blaming others for their own problems. As a result of these behaviors, they tend to struggle socially at work or school.

Causes of Impulse Control Disorder

There is no definite cause of Impulse Control Disorder. There are, however, different factors that can play into the development of the condition. These factors include physical, biological, psychological, and social risks. 

Some studies show that brain structure could play a role in the development of impulse control disorders. The limbic system in the brain, which controls emotion and memory function, and the frontal lobe that plans and controls, are two of the likely structures. The pre-frontal cortex is also a likely contributor as it fuels decision-making abilities.

Other factors of Impulse Control Disorder include:

  • Chronic drug or alcohol use
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Being subjected to abuse, neglect, or trauma
  • Exposure to violence or aggression
  • Hormonal/ chemical imbalance

Impulse Disorder and Substance Abuse

Impulse Disorders commonly co-occur with substance abuse. Individuals will often utilize drugs and alcohol in an effort to self-medicate and manage the symptoms of their disorder. While it may provide some temporary relief, substance abuse only exacerbates the problem. Due to the impaired judgment and decision-making skills of those with Impulse Disorders, it can make it more challenging to treat. However, a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses both disorders can put an individual on a path to recovery. 

Treatment for Impulse Disorders 

Recovery is about healing the person as a whole- the entire mind, body, and spirit. There are many highly effective treatment options available to those who suffer from Impulse Disorders as well as substance abuse and addiction. Along with a closely-monitored medically supervised detox, individuals will undergo different therapy methods to find a solution that works for them. Some of these methods include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Mindfulness Therapy. Contact us today for more information. 

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