Impulse Control Disorders:

Clinical Characteristics & Pharmacological Management

The Different Types Of Impulse Control Disorders Unveiled

types of impulse control disorders

Impulse control disorders are psychiatric conditions that can have negative effects on a person’s life due to social and occupational impairments.

Due to this, one needs to know what are the different types of impulse controls in order to spot them and understand what’s going on with the person.

Here are examples of impulse control disorders.


Pyromania is an impulse control problem of someone who cannot control the urge to set things on fire.

It’s a way to relieve themselves from emotional problems that they might have like anxiety or emotional blockage. There are also symptoms of people who have this to have a sense of arousal when setting fires on.

Pathological Gambling

Pathological Gambling is a behavior that a person habitually repeats which can hugely affect one’s finances, occupation, and can eventually even affect the family.

They will consistently find a method that will try to gain more money from the original amount he/she has lost.

This will become a continuous cycle that will cause the person to sell off their valuable possession as they will always think that they’re going to get their money back from gambling.


Trichotillomania is a disorder that people have where they habitually try to pull hair from parts of their body as a way to release tension and satisfaction. The people who have this type of disorder will eventually lose any concerns for pain.


People who have Kleptomania will have the inability to control the urge to steal things. The reason that they do this isn’t out of necessity but due to how they’re not able to control their urge to steal. 

This disorder can happen when the person feels anxious or frustrated during times when they receive certain amounts of stress. Other people might do it to get the feeling of euphoria after stealing the item.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

This type of disorder is the inability of one’s control to the impulse of lashing out from minor problems that may cause them to trigger. This can cause them to become aggressive and harm anything that’s surrounding them. 

People with this type of disorder will often be filled with rage and anger when they are triggered and will feel exhausted and embarrassed after they start to calm down.

Treatment for these Disorders

Treatment for these types of disorders may be treated with therapy. If the person is committed to being consistent in going to therapy then they will be able to keep their impulses under control. 

Medications will also help calm down the impulses at a certain degree but it’s important that the person must not be dependent on these and must always try to seek out therapy.


Impulse control disorder can have a huge effect on one’s life, this is why it must be treated immediately so that you won’t have anything that may burden you in the long run. If you have any of these disorders then you should go to your doctor to seek treatment.

Major Types of Impulse Comtrol Disorders

types of impulse control disorders

What distinguishes us from other species as well as marks our psychological maturity is our ability to control our impulses. Most people take their ability to think before acting for granted. It is even harder for people who can’t control their impulses.

People with impulse control disorder are unable to resist the urge to do something harmful to them and those around them. Even though people with impulse control disorders don’t plan these acts, they gain fulfillment from these acts.

However, most people find impulse control disorders highly distressing and tend to feel like they’re losing control over their lives. Unfortunately, all types of disorders are characterized by people’s powerlessness to control their actions or behavior. Some of the types of impulse control disorders include:

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

This impulse control disorder is characterized by unexpected and repeated violent or aggressive behavior. People with this disorder tend to lash out impulsively, yell, scream, and throw things.

In most cases, these outbursts are uncalled for, and episodes of verbal and physical violence can occur in traffic, at the workplace, or at home. Adults who suffer from this disorder have more of a kid’s temper tantrum. Like in a child’s tantrum, they seem uncontrollable and show negative emotions.

This disorder can have a negative and distressing impact on the victim’s life. It could result in broken homes, loss of a job, broken relationships, or poor academic performance and evaluation. Such outbursts could also subject them to legal consequences.


This disorder is characterized by the obsessive, and impulsive need to set fire. Affected people don’t necessarily intend to cause destruction or death; they just have an unmanageable need to set fire.

Unlike arson, which is deliberate for personal gain, desire to destroy property or hurt people, or revenge, pyromania serves the purse of simply satisfying this urge to set a fire.

A person with this disorder tends to exhibit an obsession with lighting things on fire. They may be seen helping out with putting out fires and often visiting fire departments. It is more common in men than women and tends to affect not only adults but adolescents as well.

People with learning disabilities are more affected by this, as well as those who are ill-equipped to handle or are uncomfortable in social situations. Young adults with this disorder may exhibit negative traits like criminal activity or aggression.


This disorder is characterized by the urge to steal. Affected people find themselves taking things they don’t even need or items with little to no value. It tends to stem from people with difficulties with emotional self-control.

People with this disorder tend to be hesitant in seeking help or treatment because they become ashamed of their behavior. However, if someone wants to overcome this disorder, psychotherapy is imperative.

This disorder can lead to loss of employment, disruption of relationships, as well as legal problems. This isn’t the same as shoplifting because those who shoplift do so out of rebellion, for personal gain, or could be responding to pressure or a dare.

Someone with kleptomania will steal because she or he has an irrepressible or mounting urge to steal. Their episodes come with no warning, and they never plan on stealing something specific. They may steal personal property from friends and friends or public areas and may sometimes return them in secret.

Conditions associated with this condition include bipolar, anxiety, personality disorders, depression, eating disorders, substance and alcohol abuse, and other impulse-control disorders like gambling and shopping.

How Do Impulse Control Disorders Develop

how do impulse control disorders develop

Impulse control disorder is a condition in which the affected has trouble controlling behaviors or emotions. In most cases, their behaviors conflict with the law and social norms and also violate the rights of others.

Examples of these disorders include conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, kleptomania, intermittent explosive disorder, and pyromania.

These disorders may be misdiagnosed or overlooked; hence those suffering from these conditions may wind up not getting the help they need. If people have a better understanding of the disorder, closing the treatment gap is possible, and the individuals can get proper care to help improve their symptoms. 

When a Behavior Becomes a Disorder

Usually, the impulsive action stems from built-up tension that has reached a point where someone can no longer resist. One can get an immediate short-term sense of relief when they act on impulsive behavior.

However, feelings of shame and guilt could follow, and the repeated acts of impulsion could lead to more negative consequences like regret or more significant emotional distress in the long-term.

Impulse control disorders are the likely causes for when an impulsive behavior or emotional toll becomes unmanageable or relevantly disrupts one’s life.

Who is at Risk?

Most people diagnosed with impulse control disorders have these traits:

·         Are in early adulthood or adolescents

·         Are male

·         Family history of mental health disorders

·         Family history of substance use disorders

·         History of drug abuse

·         History of witnessing violence

Causes of Impulse Control Disorders

Mental health professions haven’t been able to identify specific causes of impulse control disorders. Hence we still don’t know for sure how these disorders develop.

However, certain factors come to play in leading up to the onset of these disorders. Some of the contributing factors include:

Environmental Factors

Children raised in families where verbal abuse, violence, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and explosive emotional reactions to different situations are prevalent, are at a higher risk of developing an impulse control disorder.

The onset of these behaviors in children and adolescents may be somewhat an unconscious way of trying to gain control over the situations affecting them and looking for a sense of escape amidst the chaos in their environment.


As with most mental health disorders, there is a strong genetic tie to the onset of impulse control disorders.  Studies show that children and adolescents with family members struggling with illnesses like mood disorders are highly susceptible to developing signs and symptoms of impulse control disorders.


There is also a high probability that when specific brain structures in charge of emotions, memory, and planning become imbalance, symptoms of these disorders could develop.

Mental Disorders and Chronic Stress

Impulse control disorders can also commonly be as a result of chronic stress or due to mental illness. People with mental disorders experience altered moods that sometimes cause them to do things they regret afterward.

What to Do?

If you realize you have an impulse control disorder or someone in your family has, it is essential to seek help because the signs and symptoms, behaviors, and side effects of these disorders can quickly take over a person’s life, affecting their mental and physical health, work, relationships, and their overall quality of wellbeing and vitality.

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