Addiction and Impulse Disorders

 In Drug Addiction Treatment

Impulsive behavior disorders are a very important health concern that everyone should understand.

This group of disorders affects millions of people around the world, so it’s likely that you will encounter Impulse Control Disorders at least once in your life, whether you have one yourself or one of your close family or friends is impacted by this. 

If you’re wondering when loss of self-control is really an impulse control disorder, perhaps these insights will give you a better understanding of what it’s like to deal with this health issue on a daily basis.

While it’s certainly true that impulses are natural and everyone experiences them, humans are different from other species in that we are better able to control our urges through impulse control.

As published in the Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders journal, “Impulse control disorders are a psychiatric condition characterized by the failure to resist an impulsive act or behavior that may be harmful to self or others.”

In other words, impulse control is the way in which humans use their psychological maturity to be successful in society. For some people, the idea of “think before you act” is easier than for others.


Impulse Control Disorders: The Basics

Impulse control disorders are disabling and debilitating psychiatric illnesses that affect an estimated 8.9% of the U.S. population, as published by the Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

An impulse disorder affects the ability to resist urges to do things like eat, drink, or take drugs.

While most people have a guilty pleasure, such as extra-large fries or chocolate, impulse control disorders go far beyond the occasional craving for something sweet.


Common Impulsive Behavior Disorders

To get a better understanding of what it means to have an impulse control disorder, and how this health situation can negatively impact a person’s life, it’s important to have examples.

This includes Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which typically appears in children who have ADHD or ADD and experience continuous hostile and defiant behavior toward their parents, guardians, teachers and other figures of authority, even after negative consequences are implemented.

Antisocial Personality is another, which involves a blatant disregard for others’ feelings.

This is someone who simply uses people as the means to their own end, whether that be at work, home, or in social settings.

Although there are clearly many differences across the range of impulse control disorders, there are sound similarities as well.

At the start of an ICD episode, the individual will experience mounting tension prior to heightened suspense before the act is done or committed.

The person will almost always feel excited while committing impulsive behavior, but afterward, they may feel guilt and regret.

With impulse control disorders, sufferers typically feel like they have no control over their behavior and their lives.


Impulsive Control and Mental Health

When looking at impulse control disorders and other mental illnesses, there are some striking similarities, although the main difference is the primary issue or challenge that the person faces on a regular basis.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a good example, as people affected by this will have a drastically reduced attention span.

Trying to control their impulses isn’t at the root of the issue, as the main challenge is actually that with a minimal attention span, they will find it hard to stay focused on one thing or one task.

In contrast, those with impulsive behavior disorders struggle first and foremost with denying their urges and ignoring their compulsions.

Parents of patients with impulse control disorders are usually very concerned with whether these behaviors are a serious personality disorder or the result of childhood trauma, unhealthy habits, or other insecurities.


Causes of Impulse Control Disorders

Over the years, a lot of research has been done to shed light on impulse behavior disorders.

Although scientists and doctors have yet to unveil a definitive cause, there are many factors believed to play a part in a person’s impulse problems.

A combination of biological, physical, emotional, psychological, societal and cultural factors is often to blame.


Getting Help with Impulse Control Disorders

In a considerable number of cases, patients with impulse behavior disorders respond well to medications usually used to treat anxiety and depression, especially Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).

This group of antidepressants can be particularly helpful when those with Impulse Control Disorders also have drug addictions to cope with.

There’s also Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps people with impulse issues retrain their brains to minimize urges and allow for better self-control.

This allows patients to focus on healthy reactions rather than acting out in an unhealthy manner.

The combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy practices can lead to positive self-perception on how others view them and how the world plays a role in their mental health.

For many, going into professional treatment centers can be a deciding factor, as they will be immersed in a safe and secure environment where they can learn to grow and thrive despite their condition.

These facilities are designed to treat the underlying causes of impulse behavior disorders, drug and alcohol addictions, and other mental health problems.

With the support and guidance of professional medical staff, patients are more likely to see a positive turnaround as they grow stronger and become better able to deal with their Impulse Control Disorders.

If you or your loved ones are struggling with Impulse Control Disorders, please know that you’re not alone.

There is hope on the horizon and recovery and proper management of this condition is possible.

By getting in touch with a mental health specialist and rehabilitation center, you can take the first steps toward a happier and healthier lifestyle where impulse doesn’t have to ruin your life.


[1] Mestre, T. A., Strafella, A. P., Thomsen, T., Voon, V., & Miyasaki, J. (2013). Diagnosis and treatment of impulse control disorders in patients with movement disorders. Therapeutic advances in neurological disorders6(3), 175–188. doi:10.1177/1756285613476127 Retrieved From

[2] Odlaug, B. L., & Grant, J. E. (2010). Impulse-control disorders in a college sample: results from the self-administered Minnesota Impulse Disorders Interview (MIDI). Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry12(2), PCC.09m00842. doi:10.4088/PCC.09m00842whi Retrieved from



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