How to Regain Control of Your Impulsivity

Impulse control disorder is often the inability to resist sudden, forceful urges to do something that may violate the rights of others or bring conflict to societal norms. These impulsive behaviors may occur repeatedly, quickly, or without consideration of consequences. Learning this skill takes time and can greatly help you in recovery.

Signs and Symptoms

There are some basic signs and symptoms which may point to impulse control disorder in some people. It is not always easy to identify a disorder, but the following flags may be cause for attention:

  • Cognitive: obsessive behavior, being agitated, flying into ar age, or poor concentration abilities can create impulse control issues
  • Social and emotional symptoms: often occur as low self-esteem, being socially withdrawn, or seeming anxious and experiencing shifts in thought and mood along with feelings of guilt and regret
  • Behavioral: stealing, lying, starting fires, risky or promiscuous behavior, and aggressive or volatile behaviors

Behavior Leading to Disorder

Behaviors in and of themselves are not disorders. When an impulsive action results from tension that has built to the point the person cannot resist any longer, the immediate sense of relief from acting on the behavior is only short-term. Feelings like guilt or shame may follow and repeated impulsive acts may lead to negative consequences like greater emotional distress or regret long-term. Emotionally it can take a toll when it becomes unmanageable or seriously disrupts everyday life.

Risk Factors

Internal and external stressors are known triggers for impaired control. Many types of impulse control disorders are thought to stem from underlying neurological vulnerabilities coupled with environmental stresses. Some risk factors may include:

  • Being male
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Chronic drug or alcohol use
  • Being subjected to trauma, abuse, or neglect
  • Exposure to aggression or violence

Common Types and Treatments

Impulse control disorder is a category of mental health problems that may include disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders. Some types of impulse control disorders include:

  • Pyromania: people with this deliberately start fires without regard to destruction or injury actions may cause. Treatment often needs to address mental illness that is underlying these issues
  • Intermittent explosive disorder: diagnosed with a person has acted on aggressive acts like assault or destruction of property. Trauma can be linked to this issue and people often benefit from medication and cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Kleptomania: the constant desire to steal. Unlike typical thieves, this person struggles with impulse control disorder and may steal things of little or no value. It is common for people with kleptomania to struggle with psychiatric or addiction issues that are co-occurring. Effective treatments vary but medications can help along with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Impulse control disorder varies on the spectrum. There are many signs and symptoms that reflect these conditions. A trained professional can provide a full evaluation, explanation, and comprehensive treatment program that builds and strengthens accepted social skills. A therapist may choose to focus on problem-solving and ways to see the bigger picture for a longer term outlook on recovery.

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