Impulse Control

If you struggle painfully with controlling your emotions and behaviors, you may potentially be suffering from what is known as an impulse control disorder. A collection of chronic problems in which individuals lack the ability to maintain self-control in one or more areas, impulse control disorders can result in severe and extreme dysfunctions and disruptions in one’s personal and professional life.

What are the types of impulse control disorders?

There are several, but the following are some of the more common forms of impulse control disorders:

Intermittent explosive disorder

This is more commonly diagnosed than any other form of impulse control disorder; it is characterized by physical violence and emotional outbursts that can be described as aggressive and frightening. The individual experiences these outbursts often, which are brought on by extreme stress and tension. The individual, once calm, feels extreme remorse and shame once the incident has occurred.

Compulsive sexual behavior

When a person experiences excessive sexual thoughts and the persistent, stubborn need to participate in sexual activity, he or she may suffer from compulsive sexual behavior. Examples of such behavior includes excessive masturbation, voyeurism, promiscuity, pornography or other fetishes – desire to partake in these activities can become so powerful that it prevents the individual from successfully participating in regular daily activities.


Kleptomania is characterized by the uncontrollable desire to steal. Individuals with this disorder know it’s wrong to do so, and feel apprehension and tension before the behavior, but are so overwhelmed with the satisfaction and gratification of stealing that the crime feels like a relief. Those with kleptomania are not stealing because of defiance or anger, or even because they need the item and have not the means to purchase it, but because they are suffering from a delusion.


This is described as an act of setting things on fire in an effort to relieve tension. Those with this disorder have an unhealthy fascination with fire and flames, feeling great satisfaction in watching items burn.

What are the symptoms?

There are several symptoms with fall into three categories: behavioral, physical and cognitive.

Behavioral symptoms may include starting fires, stealing, participating in risky sexual activities, acting out violently against people or animals, and compulsively lying.

Physical symptoms may be burn marks, sexually transmitted diseases, or presence of injuries or scars.

Cognitive symptoms include compulsive or aggressive thought patterns, and the inability to control one’s impulses.

What causes impulse control disorder?

There has been no exact, specific cause reported by professionals in mental health as to what brings on impulse control disorders. However, it has been said that genetic and environmental factors can and do play a role – those who were born into families with mental health disorders and those who may have been raised in abusive or violent homes are more likely to develop such disorders.

What are the treatments?

Evidence-based practices are available for the treatment of impulse control disorders, including individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy and medication. Perhaps most important is for the individual to build skills in areas of social, educational, health and wellness and self-care.

If you or a loved one is suffering with impulse control disorders we can help. Contact us today for a free intake consultation.

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