Definition of Impulse Control Disorder
by Donna Torney
Pathological Gambling - one example of an Impulse-Control Disorder
Impulse-Control Disorders fall into several categories of behavior. In each case, an individual is unable to resist an urge to act in a way that is harmful to themselves or others.
Pattern of Behavior
In most cases an individuals struggling with Impulse-Control Disorders have an irresistible urge to perform an act, followed by a sense of relief or euphoria. However, many people describe a sense of shame, guilt or regret after performing the act. This pattern can create a vicious circle in which the individual feels compelled to repeat the harmful behavior.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association includes the following categories of Impulse-Control Disorders: Intermittent Explosive disorder (assault or destruction of property), Kleptomania (stealing), Pyromania (fire-setting), Pathological Gambling and Trichotillomania (hair-pulling). Another category, Impulse-Control Disorder Not Otherwise Specified covers all other behaviors, including harmful picking at the skin and overspending.
Although Impulse-Control Disorder is a standalone diagnosis, it is often associated with other common disorders, such as substance abuse disorders, mood disorders and anxiety disorders.
The course of each Impulse-Control Disorder varies with each specific impulse. Often-times these disorders are insidious. What starts out as healthy or normal behavior turns into an all-consuming addiction.
In treating Impulse-Control disorders, it is important for individuals to work with mental health professionals to rule out any related disorders. Physiological disorders such as dementia should be ruled out. Treatment varies depending on co-existing disorders.