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According to the Psychiatric Times, “impulse control disorders are common psychiatric conditions in which affected individuals typically report significant impairment in social and occupational functioning, and may incur legal and financial difficulties as well.” Psychiatric Times goes on to explain that the primary features of impulse control disorders are as follows:

  • Repetitive engagement in a behavior despite negative consequences
  • Inability to fully control the problematic behavior
  • Performing problematic behavior to release pressure or to feel pressure
  • Experiencing strong urges or cravings to engage in the problematic behavior

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) includes the following five standalone impulse control disorders each with distinct characteristics:

  1. Kleptomania: characterized by an inability to control the impulse or urge to steal superfluous, unneeded, and/ or meaningless items
  2. Pyromania: characterized by an inability to control the impulse to set fires
  3. Intermittent explosive disorder: characterized by an inability to control the impulse to respond in rage to minor triggers
  4. Pathological gambling: characterized by an inability to control the impulse to gamble
  5. Trichotillomania: characterized by an inability to resist the impulse to pull out one’s hair

An unspecified impulse control disorder is diagnosed when an individual exhibits general signs and symptoms of an impulse control disorder, but whose signs and symptoms do not fall into any of the above categories.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms that will present themselves in people struggling with an impulse control disorder will vary as they will depend on a variety of contributing factors. Common behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms that may indicate the presence of an impulse control disorder, could include but are not limited to any combination of the following examples, provided by Cross Creek Hospital:

  • Behavioral symptoms:
    • Starting fires
    • Sudden explosive anger or acts of violence
    • Hair pulling
    • Participating in risky sexual behaviors
    • Stealing
    • Compulsive lying
    • Poor social skills
    • Isolating oneself from family and friend
  • Physical symptoms:
    • Burn marks on those who engage in fire-starting behaviors
    • Presence of sexually transmitted diseases from engaging in risky sexual behavior
    • Patches of missing hair
    • Physical injuries or scars from engaging in physical fights or aggressive episodes
    • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Cognitive symptoms:
    • Inability to control impulses
    • Unable to remain patient
    • Obsessive thought patterns
    • Compulsive thought patterns
  • Psychosocial symptoms:
    • Irritability
    • Feeling unable to control actions
    • Fear of abandonment
    • Lowered feelings of self-worth
    • Episodes of emotional detachment
    • Agitation
    • Depression
    • Anxiety

Without treatment, regardless of the type of impulse control disorder, the symptoms associated with these disorders typically worsen over time.

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all-consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At Upwell Advisors, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process.

If left untreated, substance abuse, addiction, and/ or mental illness can result in long-lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to help you or your loved one in the recovery process.

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