HomeHealth articlesmental disorderWhat Are Impulse Control Disorders?

Impulse Control Disorders - The Urges beyond Control

Verified dataVerified data

4 min read


Impulse control disorders can be defined as behaviors that are excessive and harmful to oneself or society. Read below to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi

Published At January 5, 2023
Reviewed AtJanuary 5, 2023


Impulse control disorders are a group of mental disorders where a person is impulsive, and the impulses are excessive and difficult to control. Patients with impulse control disorders usually have behaviors that are difficult to control and can be harmful to themselves and society as well. These disorders are considered to be caused by underlying mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Impulse control disorders are difficult to avoid but can be treated when diagnosed and referred to the psychotherapist at the earliest. For more information, continue reading the article below.

What Are Impulse Control Disorders?

Impulse control disorders are conditions in which the impulses are difficult or almost impossible to avoid.

The impulsive reactions include

  • Anger.

  • Setting things on fire.

  • Claiming things that do not belong to them as their property.

Impulse Control Disorders Include

  • Pathological gambling.

  • Kleptomania.

  • Trichotillomania.

  • Intermittent explosive disorders.

  • Pyromania.

  • Pathological skin picking.

  • Compulsive buying.

  • Compulsive sexual behaviors.

These disorders cause social, financial, and legal impairment; the person feels restless before the impulsive behaviors, a positive feeling of accomplishment during the act, and a sense of release or guilt follows the behaviors after the show.

1) What Is Pathological Gambling?

Pathological gambling is associated with persistent and recurrent episodes of gambling behaviors. Pathological gambling can further be divided into three subtypes called:

  • Impulsive.

  • Obsessive-compulsive.

  • Addictive.

Subjects with pathological gambling often have an association with other mental health disorders.

2) What Is Kleptomania?

A habit of uncontrolled stealing characterizes this; it includes things that are not needed for personal use.

3) What Is Trichotillomania?

It is characterized by repetitive hair-pulling, and hair-pulling is done in any area of the body.

These subjects report significant hair loss and experience social anxiety due to alopecia.

4) What Are Intermittent Explosive Disorders?

These disorders have classic symptoms with recurrent outbursts of anger and aggression. The first symptom is noticed in early adolescence. On average, approximately 43 attacks in a lifetime are experienced.

5) What Is Pyromania?

Pyromania is an impulsive condition characterized by purposeful fire setting. It is associated with high rates of psychiatric comorbidities.

How Do Individuals With Impulse Control Disorder Present Themselves?

Individuals with impulse control disorder present with the following symptoms:

  • Repetitive involvement in adverse behaviors, even after knowing the consequences.

  • Inability to control problematic behaviors.

  • An urge or craving state before getting involved in difficult situations.

Some commonly performed acts by individuals are:

  • Setting things on fire.

  • Violent behaviors or sudden outbursts of anger.

  • Involvement in risky sexual behaviors.

  • Robbery.

  • Lying.

  • Poor social interactions.

  • Being loner.

The symptoms mentioned above can also be described as behavioral addictions. Impulsive behaviors are commonly seen in people with mental disorders like conduct disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, disorders of personality, substance and alcohol abuse, psychotic disorders, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, and dementia.

What Are the Causes of Impulse Control Disorders?

Any significant cause for the disorder has not been mentioned by the researchers so far. But, impulse control disorders are thought to be caused by some of the following:

  • Pre-existing Mental Health Conditions. It is believed that impulse control can manifest as a symptom of some mental health conditions with dual behaviors like obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, disorders of personality, substance and alcohol abuse, psychotic disorders, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, and dementia.

  • Genetics: Parents are essential in passing on the disorder to their children if they have it too. Hair pulling is a most common impulse control disorder with a genetic etiology.

  • Medications: Drugs prescribed to treat some mental disorders can act on the part of the brain that controls behaviors, resulting in impulse control disorder. Medications that cause dopamine imbalance in patients with parkinsonism are one example of such drug-induced impulsive behaviors.

  • Substance Abuse: Impulsive behaviors are commonly seen in alcoholics or drug addicts.

How Are Impulse Control Disorders Treated?

Impulsive disorders are draining and dangerous, but if a person is willing to undergo treatment and control impulsive behaviors, improve social, legal, and personal relationships.

The treatment modalities available include:

1) Medicinal Treatment: Medications used in treating Parkinson's disease have been reported to cause impulse control disorder. Thus the patient on medication is advised to either discontinue the medication or replace them with other drugs with less harmful effects. This can help improve the symptoms, but it is recommended only with professional advice from your physician. However, in many instances replacing or discontinuing medications has proved beneficial.

2) Therapies for Habit Reversal: Various therapies, including psychotherapy, meditations, exercises, and dairy maintenance, are an essential part of habit reversal. These therapies help a person to overcome his urge to react impulsively and replace the impulse with an alternative that is less harmful and can keep the notion in a minimal violent stage. Some common disorders that are benefited from these therapies include treatment tics, stammering, and skin picking.

These therapies mainly involve an individual's participation and willingness to overcome the impulse control disorder. In addition, psychologists advise such people to maintain a diary where they are asked to note down trigger incidences and help them overcome them.

3) Dual Diagnosis Impulse Control Treatment: Impulse control disorders can have the etiology of alcohol abuse or drug abuse, as mentioned above.

Therefore, treatment modalities differ in such cases, and the treatment can take place in three ways, which are as follows:

  1. Standard Facilities: These are formed in a way that can be affordable to everyone, including both residential and non-residential structures. The comfort is a bit compromised compared to the luxury or executive facilities. These are best suitable for those who cannot afford or want to spend a lot on treatments.
  2. Luxury Facilities: This aims to make the treatment experience pleasant and memorable. Treatments are carried out in a resort or luxury hotel kind of environment. These treatments are carried out as residential structures.
  3. Executive Facilities: This structure was mainly developed for busy business professionals who can carry out their work simultaneously and stay connected with the work environment during the ongoing treatment. This structure provides high-end facilities and is also residential.


Impulse control disorders are a group of physiological disorders where a person fails to resist the urge to express anger and behave violently in various circumstances. Such behaviors are considered harmful to the individuals themselves and society. The symptoms of such disorders include extremely violent behaviors, setting things on fire, hair cooling, compulsive life, etc. In addition, impulse control disorders have been reported in patients with mental health disorders like dual behaviors like obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, disorders of personality, substance and alcohol abuse, psychotic disorders, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, and dementia. Other causes of impulse control disorder include substance abuse and chronic alcoholism. This condition can be treated by altering the medications and undergoing various therapy that promotes the replacement of impulsive thought.

Frequently Asked Questions


List Five Examples of Impulse Control Disorders.

Impulse control disorders are a group of conditions in which an individual has difficulty controlling their impulses, leading to repeated behaviors that have negative consequences. Examples of impulse control disorders include kleptomania, intermittent explosive disorder, pyromania, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), and gambling disorder.


Which Impulse Control Disorder Is the Most Prevalent?

Gambling disorder is the most prevalent impulse control disorder. It is estimated that approximately 1 % to 2 % of the general population is affected by gambling disorders, with higher rates among specific populations, such as individuals with substance use disorders or other mental health conditions.


How Does Dopamine Contribute to the Development of Impulse Control Disorders?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in reward processing and motivation. In the development of impulse control disorders, dopamine can lead to heightened sensitivity to reward, making individuals more likely to engage in impulsive behaviors that provide an immediate sense of pleasure or gratification. Over time, repeated engagement in these behaviors can lead to changes in brain circuitry and reinforcement of the behavior, further exacerbating the development of an impulse control disorder.


Is an Impulse Control Disorder Considered a Disability?

In some cases, an impulse control disorder may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, this will depend on the severity and impact of the condition on an individual's ability to perform essential job functions or engage in daily activities. In general, if an impulse control disorder significantly limits an individual's ability to function, they may be eligible for accommodations or protections under the ADA.


What Methods Are Used to Diagnose an Impulse Control Disorder?

The diagnosis of an impulse control disorder typically involves a clinical interview and a thorough assessment of an individual's symptoms and behavior. Mental health professionals may use diagnostic criteria from the DSM-5 to guide their assessment, as well as other tools and measures to evaluate the severity and impact of the condition on an individual's life.


How Is Impulse Control Disorder Treated in Children?

The treatment of impulse control disorder in children will depend on the specific condition and the severity of the symptoms. In general, treatment may involve behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which can help children learn coping strategies and improve their impulse control. Medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may also be used in some cases.


How Is Compulsive Gambling Related to Impulse Control Disorder?

Compulsive gambling is an impulse control disorder in which an individual has difficulty controlling their urge to gamble, despite negative consequences. It is thought to be related to other impulse control disorders, such as kleptomania and trichotillomania, which also involve a difficulty in controlling urges and impulses.


What Are the Long-Term Effects of Experiencing Impulse Control Disorder From Childhood?

The long-term effects of experiencing an impulse control disorder from childhood can be significant and can include difficulties with interpersonal relationships, problems with school or work, and an increased risk of developing other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. In some cases, untreated impulse control disorders can lead to legal or financial problems, as well as substance use disorders.


What Are Some Signs or Symptoms of an Impulse Control Disorder?

Signs and symptoms of an impulse control disorder may include difficulty controlling impulses, engaging in repetitive behaviors that have negative consequences, feeling a sense of tension or anxiety before engaging in impulsive behavior, and feeling relief or pleasure after engaging in the behavior.


Is ADHD Classified as an Impulse Control Disorder?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is not classified as an impulse control disorder, but it can involve difficulty with impulse control. ADHD is characterized by recurring patterns of hyperactivity and inattention, even if it also includes difficulties with impulse control. Disorders related to impulse control, including kleptomania or intermittent explosive disorder, concentrate on the inability to control negative urges. ADHD and impulse control problems are classified differently in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental problems (DSM-5).


Is Impulsive Behavior Considered a Mental Illness?

Impulsive behavior is not considered a mental illness in and of itself. However, it can be a symptom of various mental health conditions, such as ADHD, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar disorder, and can also be a feature of impulse control disorders.


Do Individuals With Kleptomania Feel Guilty About Their Behavior?

Individuals with kleptomania may experience feelings of guilt, shame, or remorse after engaging in stealing behaviors, particularly if they are caught or experience negative consequences as a result of their actions. However, these feelings may not be enough to prevent them from repeating the behavior.


Is Kleptomania a Form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Kleptomania is not considered a form of OCD, although it may be related to other compulsive behaviors. While individuals with OCD may experience compulsions related to hoarding or stealing, kleptomania is a distinct diagnosis that involves the repeated and uncontrollable urge to steal items that are not needed for personal use or monetary gain.


Is Kleptomania a Form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

Kleptomania is not considered a form of OCD, although it may be related to other compulsive behaviors. While individuals with OCD may experience compulsions related to hoarding or stealing, kleptomania is a distinct diagnosis that involves the repeated and uncontrollable urge to steal items that are not needed for personal use or monetary gain.


Is Kleptomania a Mental Illness?

Yes, kleptomania is considered a mental illness, specifically an impulse control disorder. It is characterized by an inability to resist the urge to steal items, often without any rational motive, and can lead to significant distress and impairment in an individual's life.


At What Age Does Kleptomania Typically Begin?

Kleptomania typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood, although it can develop at any age. The exact cause of kleptomania is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to underlying psychological or neurological factors, such as anxiety, depression, or abnormalities in brain chemistry.


Is Kleptomania Considered a Criminal Behavior?

Kleptomania is not considered a criminal behavior in and of itself, as it is recognized as a mental health condition. However, individuals with kleptomania may face legal consequences if they are caught stealing, and may be required to undergo treatment or counseling as a condition of probation or parole.
Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi
Dr. Vishal Anilkumar Gandhi



mental disorder
Community Banner Mobile
By subscribing, I agree to iCliniq's Terms & Privacy Policy.

Source Article ArrowMost popular articles

Do you have a question on

mental disorder

Ask a doctor online

*guaranteed answer within 4 hours

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. iCliniq privacy policy