Dealing with Impulse Control Disorder in Daily Life

What is Impulse Control Disorder?   

Impulse Control Disorder is a disorder that makes it hard for people to control their impulses or behaviors. According to Resource Residential Treatment Facility, it is characterized “by chronic problems in which people lack the ability to maintain self-control which ultimately results in the onset of extreme disruptions and dysfunctions in personal, familial, social, and academic aspects of their lives.” 

There are different types of this disorder and the most common are: 

  • Pyromania – People who are pyromaniacs have urges to light things on fire. People with pyromania usually set fires to release the tension from their urges or because they get intense pleasure by lighting fires. 
  • Kleptomania – Makes it hard to resist the urge to steal. The stolen items do not have to be valuable either and can sometimes be meaningless to the person stealing. This is not the same as stealing because you need to (Food, water, necessities, etc.) 
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder – This disorder is more common than others. It is when someone cannot control their emotions and impulses when they get angry. People with this may “explode” and get very angry at minor things. 
  • Trichotillomania – This is a disorder where people feel the need to pull their hair out. This can include hair from any part of the body. This disorder has been recategorized as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. 
  • Unspecified Impulse-Control Disorder – This is for anyone who shows signs of impulse control disorder, but does not match the criteria of a specific disorder. 
Girl with Trichotillomania
Who is affected by Impulse Control Disorder? 

There is no known cause for impulse control disorder. However, several factors may make someone more likely to have it. Some of these factors are: 

  • Genetics – You are more likely to be affected if a close family member had this type of disorder or a different type of mood disorder. 
  • Physical – Like many other mood and personality disorders, the structure of your brain can affect you. You may have different behaviors and emotions because of the shape of your brain. 
  • Environmental Factors – Living in a chaotic or stressful environment can contribute to having different types of disorders. Living in a violent or abusive household can increase your chances of having this disorder. 

This disorder has different risk factors, which include: 

  • Younger age 
  • Preexisting mental illness/Other types of disorders 
  • Family history of drug abuse 
  • Family history of mental illness 
  • Experienced physical, mental, or emotional abuse 
  • Being male 

How do I know if I have Impulse Control Disorder? 


Symptoms of Impulse Control Disorder are below: 

Pyromaniac starting a fire
  • Stealing 
  • Compulsive lying 
  • Feelings of anxiety or tension 
  • Depression 
  • Easily agitated 
  • Starting fires 
  • Obsessive thoughts 
  • Consistently acting on urges even when there are negative consequences 

It can be hard to diagnose a disorder like this. It must be proven that the behaviors someone is showing are the result of uncontrollable urges or impulses. However, talking with a doctor or mental health professional about these behaviors and urges can help. A doctor might recommend a psychological evaluation to help see if you are suffering from any other types of mental illnesses or disorders. 

How is Impulse Control Disorder treated? 

Just like a diagnosis, treatment can be hard, too. Impulse Control Disorder is also related to other types of disorders and mental health problems, so treatment is different for everyone. Treatment options include: 

  • Medications
    • Antidepressants can help with agitation and irritability related to your disorder. 
    • Mood stabilizers help some people but have the least clinical success in helping to treat Impulse Control Disorder. 
    • For people with substance abuse problems, there are several different types of medications. 
  • Habit Reversal Training 
    • This type of training/therapy helps to identify certain triggers and urges and then replace them with a healthier habit or action. 
  • Therapy 
    • Talk therapy is the most common type of therapy treatment option. 
    • Group therapy for adults may be helpful. 
    • Play therapy may be helpful for children.