Impulse Control Disorders
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Impulse control disorders (ICDs) are extreme urges and failure to resist acting on them.
ICDs can involve:
ICDs can make daily life difficult. They cause problems with school, work, and other people in your life. They often involve problems with money and the law.
The cause of ICDs is unknown. It may be caused by changes in an area of the brain called the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe of the brain controls impulses.
ICD is more common in those who:
ICDs can start at any age. Many start when you're a child or a teen. Symptoms are based on the ICD you have.
ICDs may cause:
People with ICDs tend to feel:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. Questions may be asked about problems and mental health concerns. It is important to be open and honest with the doctor. The answers can help to make a diagnosis and guide treatment.
Treatment can help to manage symptoms. The exact plan will be based on individual needs. Steps may include:
There is no way to prevent ICDs since the cause is unknown.
American Psychiatric Association
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Dell’Osso B, Altamura AC, Allen A, Marazziti D, Hollander E. Epidemiologic and Clinical updates on impulse control disorders: a critical review. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2006;256(8):464-475.
Ploskin D. What are impulse control disorders? Psych Central website. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-are-impulse-control-disorders. Accessed August 3, 2020.
Schreiber L, Odlaug BL, Grant JE. Impulse control disorders: updated review of clinical characteristics and pharmacological management. Front Psychiatry. 2011;2:1.
Last reviewed May 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD