Home Health What Is An Impulse Control Disorder, And Do I Have One?

What Is An Impulse Control Disorder, And Do I Have One?


Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention topics that include prescription medication, abuse of medication, and addiction. The information found in the article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have.

As society continues to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, many people have found themselves questioning if they are exhibiting certain behaviors due to an underlying mental health disorder. One of the most telling symptoms of certain disorders is impulse control – the inability to fight urges to behave in inappropriate or damaging ways.

Impulse control disorder is a category of mental health disorders where the primary symptoms involve an inability to control certain behaviors or emotional reactions. Impulsivity can be damaging because it can often result in risky behavior, cause interpersonal conflict and can cause a person to get caught in self-destructive patterns. Though we all may have moments where we act spontaneously, people with impulse control disorders feel completely unable to ignore impulses as they occur.

 Symptoms To Look Out For 

Since impulse control disorder is a category of mental health conditions, the way a person’s disorder manifests can be varied. Some people may have impulses to steal (kleptomania), while others may have trouble not spending money (compulsive buying disorder). Though their behavior may seem chosen to people in their lives, people with impulse control disorders have true difficulty not engaging in these behaviors, even if they know it’s damaging.

People who don’t seek out treatment and struggle with an impulse control disorder will often find that their symptoms get worse over time. Often the behavior is followed by a sort of “high” from engaging in the behavior, and people may subconsciously seek out more risky behavior to attain that same feeling. This is especially true for people who have co-occurring disorders, such as depression. Co-occuring mental health disorders are very common for people who experience an impulse control disorder.

A person with an impulse control disorder may feel consumed with thoughts of behaving in certain ways, even if they logically know that the behavior is destructive. They may also act compulsively. This means that they will feel completely unable to control their behaviors or emotional reactions which can impact their daily life and routine.

The effects of these disorders can be tremendous. People who struggle with these impulses may feel isolated, have trouble maintaining relationships and have serious consequences for their risky behavior. It can be challenging for loved ones to be around a person who is unable to control their impulses, and it may feel difficult to feel empathetic to their disorder. These effects can also lead to greater mental health challenges for the person who has the disorder, and make it hard for them to better manage their symptoms.

For more information on impulse control disorders, and their symptoms, check out some of these articles on BetterHelp. If you’ve recently been diagnosed, learning more about your disorder can help you feel empowered in alleviating symptoms moving forward. Treatment is highly effective in treating these types of disorders, and help is available.

What Makes It A Disorder

You may sometimes have impulsive thoughts or tendencies, and maybe you’ve even acted on them. What characterizes the difference between a person who lacks impulse control, and a person who has an impulse control disorder is repeated behavior and how it’s affecting a person’s life. It’s important to note that impulsive and compulsive behavior is not something that a person with this disorder feels that they have control over, and their thought patterns may make it difficult for them to simply not behave destructively.

A person with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, for example, will have strong urges to act out aggressively. Just because you sometimes get upset and raise your voice doesn’t mean you have this disorder. A person with this mental health condition will often feel strong and overwhelming impulses to act in explosive ways on a regular basis. This could lead to physical altercations, damage of property, or regular emotional outbursts. People with this mental health disorder often feel completely out of control when this happens, and may also experience great amounts of shame following an explosive event or circumstance.

In order to fully understand if you are experiencing an impulse control disorder yourself, it’s important to speak to a mental health professional. We often can’t see our own behaviors clearly, as we are very biased. Speaking to a therapist can help you understand your actions from a mental health perspective, and give you insight on steps you can take to prevent future life complications.


Though it can be challenging to experience an impulse control disorder, treatment is available. One of the most common therapy methods is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is because CBT focuses on understanding thought patterns, and finding healthy ways to cope with them. CBT is solution-focused, so rather than looking into your past and why you may be dealing with a particular mental health disorder, your therapist will focus on providing tools to help it in the moment.

Some people also find medication helpful in treating impulse control disorder. There are certain medications that can help reduce hyperactive behavior and impulsive actions. A person with an impulse control disorder may also be prescribed medication to help treat any co-occurring conditions.

Impulse control disorders are highly treatable with the help of a mental health professional. By taking a closer look at the symptoms that a person is experiencing, a therapist can offer guidance on how to challenge impulsive thought patterns head on. Though it can take some time for a person to feel that they can manage the symptoms of their disorder, doing so can make lasting change on a person’s overall well being.

About the author                              

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.