Warner Park Recovery Center – Woodland Hills Mental Health

Impulse Control Disorders

What is Impulse Control Disorder?

Impulse control disorder is a category of mental health conditions that cause an individual to feel an uncontrollable urge to perform a particular action. An impulse control disorder can present itself in many different ways and can be mild or severe.

Someone suffering from an impulse control disorder will feel tension and anxiety leading up to the action. They must perform this behavior to feel any sense of relief. The urges caused by impulse control disorder and irresistible and incredibly difficult to work through without help.

One aspect of all impulse control disorders is that the behavior caused has some level of negative consequence. This behavior could be illegal, dangerous, or embarrassing, and still, a person will lack the ability to stop themselves.

What are the 5 Impulse Control Disorders?

There are five types of stand-alone impulse control disorders. Although impulse control is a factor in other disorders, such as substance use disorder or eating disorders, these are not considered impulse control disorders because other factors are at play. The five stand-alone impulse control disorders are

Pyromania is an interest or fixation on setting fires or fire paraphernalia. Pyromania is an impulse control disorder and should be separated from the concept of arson, which is a crime. Anyone who sets fires for personal reasons, such as ideology, revenge, or any gain, is not a pyromaniac. While both arsonists and pyromaniacs set fires intentionally, pyromaniacs do so from compulsive or pathological reasoning.

Someone with pyromania will often feel tension or anxiety before starting a fire. They will feel an uncontrollable urge to set a fire and feel discomfort until they can do so. Once a fire is created, a pyromaniac will feel relief or a sense of euphoria.

 Not all pyromaniacs will commit a crime, although some may. Some pyromaniacs may set small controlled fires in areas they own to get relief without committing any crime.

While many people may gamble at times, pathological gamblers have a compulsive impulse to gamble regularly and at increasingly higher amounts. Due to the nature of gambling, a pathological gambler can experience severe financial hardship without treatment.

Many pathological gamblers hide the extent of their gambling and will usually be in denial about their problem’s severity. As the problem continues, a pathological gambler will feel the need to bet more often and increase amounts of money to achieve the feeling of excitement they seek.

A pathological gambler will often focus on past gambling experiences or think about upcoming events if they are not engaged with gambling in the present. They will likely be unable to stop or cut back on their gambling and can be distressed or irritable if they try.

Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder that causes the inability to resist the urge to steal items. While some people may steal out of necessity or lack of funds, a kleptomaniac steals things that are not needed. Afterward, stolen items are generally returned, given away, or hidden somewhere. Kleptomaniacs seek the feelings associated with theft but do not necessarily care about the specific things they are stealing.

Most often, kleptomaniacs feel shame or guilt regarding their disorder. Compared to pyromaniacs, where many do not need to commit a crime to set the fire they are urged to, kleptomaniacs repeatedly commit crimes. Kleptomania can therefore cause legal trouble and financial hardship if left untreated.

Many kleptomaniacs will hide their condition from those close to them out of embarrassment and refuse to seek treatment.

Intermittent explosive disorder is an impulse control disorder that causes violent or angry reactions at triggering events. An intermittent explosive disorder aspect is that this aggressive reaction will be a major overreaction to the proportion of the circumstances.

Compared to other impulse control disorders, which are usually hidden and secret, intermittent explosive disorder will affect how a person interacts with anyone in their lives. The disorder can cause significant problems at home, work, or in relationships with loved ones. 

Intermittent explosive disorder can cause acts of road rage or domestic violence. It can also cause someone to destroy objects or the environment around them. If you are experiencing symptoms associated with intermittent explosive disorder, you must seek treatment for the safety and wellbeing of yourself and those around you.

Trichotillomania is also commonly referred to as “hair-pulling disorder.” This condition is an impulse control disorder associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder that causes someone to feel the irresistible urge to pull hair out of the scalp or other body parts.

People may pull hair out of their scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, or body. They will likely feel embarrassed by the disorder and try to hide all bald patches caused by hair-pulling.

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Can Impulse Control Disorder be Cured?

Impulse control disorder does not have a cure, although it is considered to be treatable. While medications may be prescribed to treat symptoms associated with impulse control disorder, no medication has been approved for the disorder’s exclusive treatment.

Even though there is no cure, it is crucial to seek help if you are experiencing symptoms associated with impulse control disorder. Impulse control disorder can have a harmful impact on your life and relationships with those close to you.

How Do You Treat Impulse Control Disorder?

Impulse control disorders are often treated through a combination of medication and psychotherapy options. Antidepressants can help treat co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety that can often exacerbate impulse control disorder.

Psychotherapy options such as cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful in the treatment of impulse control disorders. Cognitive behavior therapy works by taking negative emotions and thoughts that are felt before the unhealthy behavior and positively reframing them. This encourages healthier behavior in the future when faced with similar situations.

If you or a loved one are suffering from an impulse control disorder’s effects, it is important not to attempt to face it alone. At Warner Park, we can help you find the best treatment plan that fits your needs and symptoms. Please reach out to us today at 866-623-6905 to learn more about potential treatment options.

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If you or anyone you know is dealing with issues around mental health or addiction, contact us for a full evaluation and treatment options.  We understand that it is not a process that any individual should tackle alone, and that is why we have a team of qualified personnel who are available to offer you the help you need.