Impulse Control Disorders | Signs & Symptoms

Impulse Control Disorders
Mental Health

The fourth edition of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders stated in its data that about 10.5% of the population is seen to have impulse control disorder. While this may seem like a fraction, the truth is many Americans are silently suffering from the effects of impulse control disorder in their lives.

Transcend Recovery Community is here to expound more about this mental health condition and to help people better cope with their impulse control disorder. Continue reading to find out more.

What is Impulse Control Disorders?

Impulse control disorders refer to human behavioral conditions where people struggle to resist impulses. This may vary in form. Impulse control disorders may range from emotional reactions, engaging in kleptomania, or an urge to practice pyromania.

An impulse control disorder usually manifests itself when tension has built up within a person, forcing them to forget to restrain and act upon their impulses. What happens usually is that they experience a momentary sense of relief from engaging in impulsive behavior, which is short-lived at most.

People with impulsive control disorders may often feel pangs of guilt. Constant or repetitive impulsive acts also lead to negative consequences resulting in severe emotional distress or regret in the long run.

Different Types of Impulse Control Disorders

Much like other behavioral issues like video game addiction or substance use disorders, there are a wide variety of impulse control disorders that affect people regardless of their age, race, or gender. Here are the types of impulse control disorders known at present.

  • Pyromania - This particular impulse control disorder compels the individual to compulsively start fires without utter concern for the damage or injury this may inflict on properties or people. Convicted arsonists cite this as one of its factors. They usually have other behavioral issues as well such as antisocial personality disorder.
  • Kleptomania - An impulse control disorder that stems from problematic behavior, the individual has a constant urge to steal or take things regardless if they have real monetary or personal value. This impulsive behavior could also have subcategories likened to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other mood disorders.
  • Intermittent explosive disorder - Individuals diagnosed with this impulse control disorder usually act on multiple occasions and manifest aggressive behavioral symptoms. Some of its signs and symptoms include acts of aggression like assault and destruction of property. This problematic behavior is often identified depending on the severity of the person's aggressive behavior. Some scientific studies link posttraumatic stress disorder with an intermittent explosive disorder in some individuals.
  • Trichotillomania - This impulse control disorder refers to the constant urge to pull one's hair. Compared to other disorders found on the list, trichotillomania is more common in children and adolescents than in adults. When it does occur in adults, women are prone to developing this compared to men.
  • Conduct disorder - Conduct disorder happens when an individual develops patterns of behavior that are seen as destructive and harmful. This can be seen in young children and is not diagnosed beyond 18 years of age. Studies have found a correlation between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with conduct disorder. It is said that having this impulse control disorder can trigger the development of antisocial personality disorder in adults.
  • Oppositional defiant disorder - Similar to previous impulse control disorder mentioned, it is also diagnosed during an individual's childhood or teenage years. People can be seen to have an irritable mood, being always argumentative or defiant while also engaging in vindictive behaviors.
  • Compulsive sexual behavior - This form of impulse control disorder refers to constant sexual thoughts or urges to engage in sexual behavior. It can lead to excessive masturbation, voyeurism, exhibitionism, or engaging in promiscuous behavior.
  • Unspecified impulse control disorder - An impulse control disorder that doesn't fit the diagnostic criteria for any other types may be diagnosed with this condition. Problematic Internet use and pathological gambling/compulsive gambling can also be associated here.

Causes and Risks of Impulse Control Disorders

a woman with a mental condition is seen sitting near the stairs and depressed because of her impulse control disorder

There are numerous factors resulting in the development of an impulse control disorder. However, these may vary from person to person regardless of their age, gender, race, or social standing. Here are some of the common factors that may contribute to a person developing these mental health disorders:

  • Family history - a person's genetics says a lot about how they would develop eventually in later life. As with any mental illness or cases of substance abuse, children and adolescents who have a family history of impulse control disorder are prone to manifesting these symptoms as they get old.
  • Physical - Studies have shown that any imbalances in the brain structure linked to the proper functioning of emotions, memory, and planning are highly likely to develop an impulse control disorder.
  • Environmental factors - People exposed to an environment filled with trauma, abuse, and emotional distress can drive a person from not just develop other mental health disorders, such as drug abuse, bipolar disorder, or anxiety disorders.

Signs and Effects of Impulse Control Disorders

The signs and symptoms manifesting in people with an impulse control disorder may vary depending on the type of control disorder that they have. Therefore, the symptoms relating to the intermittent explosive disorder may vastly differ from that of pathological gambling or other forms of impulse behaviors.

However, most symptoms of an impulse control disorder can be classified into 4 main categories namely, behavioral, physical cognitive, and psychosocial. Each category contains the following symptoms:

  • Behavioral
  • Starting fires
  • Stealing
  • Engaging in risky sexual activities
  • Doing acts of aggression
  • Physical
  • Presence of scars and bruises due to fights or aggressive actions
  • Burns or burn marks by people who are fire starters
  • presence of STIs
  • Cognitive
  • Impatience
  • Failure to have impulse control
  • compulsive thought pattern
  • Psychosocial
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Isolation
  • Immune health problems
  • Feelings of self-worth

Lack of self-control as characterized by any impulse control disorder may lead to the following negative consequences for a person. These effects may include the following:

  • A decline in academic and career performance
  • Self-harm
  • Legal issues leading to incarceration
  • Failure to sustain meaningful and long-lasting relationships
  • Dismissal from work or school

Who is At Risk of Impulse Control Disorders?

Risk factors relating to various impulsive behaviors are the following:

  • Youth (adolescence or early childhood
  • Constant exposure to violence or aggressive
  • Victims of social neglect, or even physical and emotional abuse
  • pre-existing mental illness
  • Family history

Statistics on Impulse Control Disorders

At present, impulse control disorders are slightly higher or more common than people with Parkinson's Diseasewith 40% of the population affected by them. Side effects from medication also play a huge role in this.

Different Types of Co-Occurring Disorders

As with the many risk factors felt by individuals with impulse control disorders, there may come a time that if their mental health issue is left untreated, they may encounter or develop other mental health problems on top of their current mental health issue known as "co-occurring disorders." An impulse control disorder may have another overlapping mental health issue such as:

  • anxiety disorder
  • depressive disorder
  • antisocial personality
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • substance abuse

One of the treatment options that an individual may avail for getting better is enrolling in an intensive inpatient or outpatient mental health program. Once they successfully finish this. They may also employ relapse prevention measures to avoid regressing from their otherwise effective treatment.

Can Transcend Recovery Community assist with Impulse Control and Co-Occurring Disorders?

While Transcend Recovery Community doesn't offer direct treatment programs (e.g. behavioral and addiction treatment) for patients, the team offers assistance and supplemental support for people to help their recovery journey be better and more efficient.

Most patients benefit from sober living and recovery homes while they are currently in rehab to allow them to become more empowered and receive ample support and encouragement from trained professionals and fellow residents so that they can achieve life-long sobriety.

If you or someone you know suffers from impulse control disorder or co-occurring disorders, not all hope is lost. There is still a chance to get better. Contact us to find out how.

Transcend Recovery Community

Transcend Recovery Community family of sober living homes provides a safe place for those undergoing mental health and addiction treatment to live with like-minded peers. Our community-based approach to sober living (similarly to a halfway house) facilitates an open and welcoming environment, where members, staff and team can provide support and encouragement on the path to a sober and healthy life. Transcend's Los Angeles sober living homes are located in some of the most iconic areas of the city, filled with luxurious and upscale amenities, providing plenty to do for those in our transitional housing community.

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