Impulse Control Disorder Articles

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Impulse-control disorder (ICD) is a category of mental disorders whose primary symptom is “impulsivity.” When people are impulsive they have difficulty controlling their behavior and reactions. They often do things that are self-destructive including stealing, abusing drugs or alcohol, or participate in risky sexual behavior. Several mental illnesses have impulsivity as a symptom. Some of them include Borderline Personality Disorder, ADHD, and OCD. The main characteristic of ICD is the inability to control oneself and to stop performing a behavior that is hurting oneself. The articles featured here will speak about impulsivity and how it can impact a person’s life. We will highlight techniques used in therapy to help a person stop being so impulsive and learn to think before reacting.

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Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA

Impulse Control Disorder

Impulse Control Disorders occur during late adolescence or early adulthood. Sometimes they’re called behavioral addictions. That means that an individual loses control of themselves and engages in explosive or uncontrollable actions. Here are some examples of impulse control disorders: kleptomania, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and pyromania. Each of these conditions has unique symptoms, but there is some overlap between signs and the disorders.


A person who has kleptomania impulsively steals objects that typically aren’t valuable. They get an adrenaline rush when they steal something and have difficulty controlling those impulses. They may feel shame after they engage in the behavior. Due to the nature of their impulsive act, they may experience legal problems. Kleptomania is a relatively rare disorder effecting around one million out of 300 million people in The United States. Individuals with kleptomania may benefit from behavioral therapy to stop their destructive impulsive actions such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Intermittent Explosive Disorder or IED is marked by sudden uncontrollable episodes of anger or temper tantrums that come out of nowhere. The person may cause physical damage to people when they are in an episode. These episodes last around 30 minutes and come out of the blue. A person with IED might experience impulsive behaviors and racing heart during an outburst.

Cause of Impulse Disorders

There is no one origin for impulse control disorders that professionals agree on; however, they may be environmental factors that contribute to them. The limbic system, which is responsible for memory, and the frontal lobe, which helps people have self-control are both a part of impulse control. Environmental factors include childhood abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is an impulse control condition. When children have ODD, you may notice it during the preschool years. A person with ODD whether they’re a child or a teen will be resistant to authority and argumentative. They may become aggressive or violent with adults. An individual with ODD will have difficulty with social skills, family relationships, and academics. Symptoms include:

  • Angry mood
  • Losing temper
  • Irritability towards others
  • Argumentative behavior
  • Rebels against authority
  • Blames others

ODD can vary in symptoms from a mild case to a severe one. If left untreated, it can develop into aggressive behavior as an adult. People with ODD may have legal issues later in life.


Pyromania is an extremely rare impulse control disorder characterized by intentionally setting fires. The person who engages in the behavior feels uncomfortable until they set something ablaze. Pyromaniacs are strangely fascinated by fire. They may collect things that are related to fire-setting such as matches, custom lighter or cans of gasoline. People with pyromania cannot control their actions. They cannot stop themselves from repeatedly setting fires because it brings them a sense of calm and peace. It might seem strange objectively, but it makes them feel better. Pyromaniacs tend to be young males, but the disorder doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. It can be a dangerous disorder, and it’s imperative for the person to get help for their illness. Pyromania can hurt the person with the condition or physically harm people who are damaged by the fires.

Counseling Can Help

You don’t have to deal with an impulse control disorder alone. There are many ways to treat your condition including therapy and if necessary medication. If you’re struggling with an impulse disorder, counseling can help with these issues. Online counseling is an excellent method of treatment for people who are struggling with impulsivity-related disorders. Our online counselors are ready to help you deal with your impulsive issues. You might be afraid to confront your problems, but the more you do it, the better you will feel. There are many ways to manage impulse control issues, and a licensed therapist can help you to understand why you are engaging in impulsive behavior. You can find strategies to stop hurting yourself. Search from thousands of licensed therapists and get the help you deserve. Search the network of online therapists from BetterHelp and find one who is right for you.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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