All individuals will have impulses to engage in behaviors that might not good for them. Luckily, humans have developed the ability to consider the implications of their actions, which is developed throughout childhood and young adulthood. This means that they can usually ignore those impulses which could lead them into harm. Those individuals who have impulse control disorder are less able to fight against their inner urges. Even though an action may be harmful to themselves or others, they may still feel compelled to do it.
In psychological terms the word impulse refers to an urge to do something. This type of urge will usually occur suddenly and could initially seem like a good idea. A good example of this would be a man walking through the park on a hot day. As he goes past a lake he might suddenly get an impulse to jump in. The cool water would be very welcome escape from the heat. This impulse may be quickly dismissed as he remembers that the water is dirty or that people are not allowed to swim in the park lake. The individual with impulse control disorder might just jump in the lake despite any negative consequences.
There are a number of different conditions that fall under the umbrella of impulse control disorders. The one factor that all of these conditions share is that there is an obvious loss of control. The six main categories are:
* Pathological gambling
* Trichotillomania is where people have an impulse to pull out their own hair
* Pyromania is when the individual causes fires without any reasonable motive
* Kleptomania is where people steal even though there is no need for them to do so
* Intermittent explosive disorder causes people to have violent outburst even though there is no real trigger for the behavior
* There are also other examples of impulse control disorder that fall under the category of not otherwise specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. This category includes such behavior as sex addiction, compulsive shopping, and self-harm. Modern phenomenon like Internet addiction is sometimes also considered to belong in this group.
Impulsive control disorders are considered to belong to a wider group of mental health conditions known as obsessive-compulsive disorders.
There can be a number of possible reasons why people develop the condition. It is seen as due to both environmental and neurological factors. It is also believed that stress plays an important part in at least triggering the behavior. Differences in how neurotransmitters behave in the brain may explain why some individuals develop the condition. In particular, levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are said to play a part.
It is typical for those individuals with the condition to describe a build-up of tension and anxiety before they perform the action. Once they have completed the action there is a sense of relief and possibly even happiness. It is this need to escape the mounting tension and experience relief that is the driving force behind the behavior.
There can be disagreement about whether or not certain types of impulse control disorder should be considered addictions instead. In popular culture it is common for these two conditions to be confused. This is why compulsive shopping is more popularly known as shopping addiction. Even doctors and researchers have difficulty distinguishing between the two. This confusion is understandable as there is a great deal of overlap between addiction and impulse control disorder. A condition like compulsive gambling can be as destructive to the individual and their family as alcoholism. In many ways the final results are the same.
Those individual with substance abuse problems will also have problems with impulsivity, but they are classified as belonging to a different family of disorders. There are also other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, where there is a lack of impulse control. These do not fall under the same category though because the main problem is not impulsivity.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most common form of treatment. This involves teaching the individual how to better deal with stress and negative impulses. There are also a number of support groups that can help people with gambling or shopping compulsions. Anti-depressant medication has also proved to be successful in many cases.
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