Losing Control: The Causes and Effects of Impulsive Behavior Disorders
Impulses are a natural part of life, though humans have developed the ability to control them. Impulse control is how we demonstrate psychological maturity and excel in society. The simple concept of “think before you act” isn’t quite so easy for everyone, however.
Impulsive Behavior Disorders
A person is afflicted by an impulse control disorder (ICD) when he or she absolutely can’t resist the urge to do something. The action is usually harmful and can be targeted toward themselves or other people. Impulsive behavior disorders like this are a broad category and span from drug addictions to paraphilic sexual fantasies.
Common impulsive behavior disorders include:
- Pathological Gambling: An attachment to games that involve wagering money.
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder: Uncontrolled and violent episodes categorize IED.
- Pyromania: This disorder centers on an obsession with fire.
- Kleptomania: A kleptomaniac will commit compulsive theft.
- Compulsive Shopping: An individual will often buy things he or she doesn’t need.
- Sex, Drug and Alcohol Addictions: These are often harmful and involve very strong urges.
Despite their vast differences, impulsive control disorders tend to work in similar ways. In the beginning, the person will feel a building tension. Then there’s an increase in suspense before the act is committed.
The individual will almost always experience excitement while doing the impulsive act, whatever it may be. Afterward, however, he or she is far more likely to experience regret and guilt. Those who suffer from impulsive behavior disorders will usually feel like they have no control.
Impulse Disorders vs. Other Illnesses
Some studies show similarities between impulsive behavior disorders and similar mental conditions. The primary difference is the main issue the individual faces. Take attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for example. People who have ADHD will experience a significantly reduced attention span. They’ll struggle to maintain focus and keep their minds from jumping to new topics.
The central issue for ADHD is an insufficient attention span, not simply following urges. People with impulsive behavior disorders, on the other hand, struggle the most with denying the compulsion.
Many health care professionals have divided impulse control disorders into a subgroup of existing problems. ICDs are often categorized within anxiety problems and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Studies suggest that chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, play a major role in impulsive behavior disorders.
Many ICD patients show responsiveness to medications typically used for depression and anxiety. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are a branch of antidepressants that are particularly useful.
The Cause of Impulsive Behavior Disorders
Medical professionals and scientists have yet to discover a root cause of impulse disorders, although there are factors suspected to influence an individual’s condition. These can be physical, biological, psychological, emotional, cultural or societal.
Studies suggest that particular structures in the brain affect impulse disorders. The limbic system is a section of the brain devoted to emotions and memory function. It and the frontal lobe, which handles planning and controlling, are the two most likely suspects.
Hormones may affect impulsive behavior disorders, too. Researchers believe that compounds such as testosterone are especially at fault. These hormones are associated with violence and aggression. They’re also less present in women. This correlates with data showing that women are more prone to less violent types of control problems. For example, men are more likely to be pyromaniacs, and women more commonly suffer from kleptomania.
The Effects of Impulsive Behavior Disorders
Dealing with an impulse control disorder is extremely difficult. Many sufferers fall into other mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, as a direct result of their lack of control. Others will turn to alcohol or drugs as a coping method.
Unfortunately, a history of uncontrollable impulses means that ICD sufferers present a much higher risk of forming a dependency or addiction. Thankfully, there are plenty of proven treatment options. Medications, as stated, have offered patients significant improvement in their symptoms.
Treating Impulse Control Disorders
Behavioral therapy also shows significant promise for ICD patient – even those who already suffer from addiction. Many patients experience positive turnarounds when they enter dedicated treatment facilities, particularly because these places are equipped to treat the underlying causes of addiction (such as lack of impulse control) in addition to the dependency itself.
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