Impulse Control Disorder & Addictions: Treatment, Signs, Causes

What you need to know about impulse control disorder treatment, signs, risks, and more!

A particular condition in which the patient is unable to control his or her emotions and behaviors is known as impulse control disorder (IDCs).

Impulse control disorders are more common than believed.  As a matter of fact, about 10% of the general population is believed to have impulse control according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

The biggest problem is that impulse control disorders are usually ignored or misdiagnosed.

This leads to a patient suffering all on his or her own without getting the proper treatment that they are entitled to.

In this page, we will be discussing certain behavioral therapies for impulse control disorder treatment and substance abuse and IDCs.

Please read on to learn more and get help.

Overview of common impulse control disorders

Some of the impulse control disorder examples are pyromania, kleptomania, intermittent explosive disorder, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder, etc.

  • Kleptomania: This is one of the common forms of impulsive Control Disorders which propels the patient to unnecessary steal things from their surroundings. The patients usually steal things and either throw them away or give them to someone else. The patients suffering from kleptomania usually have a strong impulse to steal and lack the much-required self-control to stop the impulse. After committing the theft, the patient suffers relief or immediate gratification for having committed to do so. The right kleptomania treatment is essential in treating this disorder. So if you or loved is dealing with kleptomania get help.
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder(IED): Commonly known as IED, this is a major impulsive control disorder that causes the patients to have frequent angry outbursts and an impulse to do so. The patient usually shows his or her aggression towards anything such as property, animals or people. The intermittent explosive disorder patient has regular outbursts and these outbursts can extend to almost half an hour. The trigger is usually something unimportant. The patient might get entangled in financial or legal issues due to his/her outbursts.
  • Pyromania: Pyromania is also a serious impulsive control disorder and the patient suffering from this has the strong impulse of starting fires. The patient has an attraction towards fire-setting pieces of equipment and fires itself. The patient gets a sense of relief after setting the fires. There is no particular reason as to why the patient has a strong impulse to do so. The patients suffering from pyromania are very rare to find. Their sole trigger is the stress that has been building within them throughout the day.

Signs & symptoms of impulse control disorders

There are many symptoms and signs which can be easily identified to understand whether a patient is suffering from any form of impulse control disorder(ICD). The impulse control disorder symptoms vary according to the age group being observed. Some of the psychological, cognitive, physical, and behavioral symptoms have been mentioned here.

Psychological Symptoms

  • High anxiety levels
  • Depression
  • Emotional detachment on part of the patient
  • The patient suffers from low self-esteem
  • The patient isolates himself/herself from social events

Cognitive Symptoms

  • The patient has many constructive and obsessive thoughts.
  • The patient has a lot of trouble concentrating.
  • The patient becomes irritable and lacks patience.
  • The patient also tends to get agitated very easily.

Physical Symptoms

  • The patients usually have multiple injuries due to frequent involvement in fights.
  • Adolescents or children usually have a lot of burns on their skin due to their constant experiment with fire.
  • Adolescents or children usually also have STDs in case of their risky sexual behavior

Behavioral Symptoms

  • The patient frequently lies and steals due to compulsion.
  • The patient also plays with fire and acts out pretty risky sexual behaviors.

Causes of ICDs

Patients can contract any ICD due to a multitude of reasons. The causes can be genetic, environmental, physiological, and temperamental. All of these can be easily rectified by using the ways of impulse control disorder treatment. We have compiled several causes for the various examples of ICD:

  • Conduct Disorder: The patient usually has a difficult temperament while an infant. The child will have below-average intelligence along with inconsistent/abusive parenting. The child might have been exposed to violence pretty early in life and might have suffered from more than one mental problem such as depression, schizophrenia, abusive treatment of alcohol, and bipolar disorder. The brain might also have some form of inflammation, which can lead to the child developing conduct disorder.
  • Kleptomania: The patient might already have obsessive-compulsive disorder and might have been suffering from substance use disorders as well.
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder: A patient suffering from Intermittent Explosive Disorder might have a history of emotional and physical trauma. The patient might also have serotonin abnormalities in the limbic system and orbitofrontal cortex.

Co-occurring disorders

The patient suffering from impulse control disorders also suffers from several other disorders which makes the overall treatment of the patients even more difficult.

Below are the co-occurring disorders and their treatment is similar to impulsive control disorder treatment.

Some of the co-occurring disorders are:

  • Antisocial personality disorder: This is a mental disorder, commonly known as sociopathy. This disorder is lifelong and the patient violates the rights of others, manipulates, and exploits other’s rights without any guilt. The patient causes a lot of problems in both their professional and personal life. Such patients do not care for the safety of either the people around them or themselves.
  • Depressive disorders: This is a mental disorder where the patient suffers from a long feeling of sadness and the patient loses interest in day-to-day activities. The patient suffers from loss of sleep, irregular sleep patterns, very low energy level, and degradation of self-esteem. Many depressed students have constant thought of ending their own life.
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): This is a serious mental disorder that originates from the early childhood and adolescent period of the patient. The patient is constantly irritated, has a lot of aggression, vindictiveness and is argumentative. They can cause problems at their schools as well as their homes.
  • Conduct Disorder (CD): This is another serious emotional and behavioral disorder that normally occurs in teens and children. The patient displays a pattern of violent and disruptive behavior and hence, causes problems at their school and home. Bullying can be a trigger for such patients.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This mental disorder is caused by any form of intense physical and emotional reactions. The patients might suffer from severe anxiety or depression, high sensitivity to stimuli, nightmares, insomnia, and constant avoidance of situations that might bring back memories of the experience.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): This mental disorder can affect anyone at any age. The patient is troubled by unreasonable fears, obsessions, and thoughts that lead to unnatural compulsive behaviors. The patients of OCD arrange objects in a specific manner or are obsessed with eliminating germs due to their fear of it. The symptoms are unclear and might persist for life.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): This condition can also affect anyone at any age. The patient constantly worries about things, is unable to concentrate on and is very restless. The symptoms are similar to patients with OCD and panic disorder.
  • Bipolar Disorder: The exact cause of this mental disorder is unknown and the patient suffers from long periods of depression and loss of interest in activities. The patient can also have periods of high energy, sleeplessness, and impractical and dangerous ideas. The patient might have suicidal thoughts during low energy episodes.

Related: The process addiction treatment 

ICDs vs. Substance addictions

According to the Semel Institute of Neuroscience & Human Behavior at UCLA,  scientists have looked upon the relation between substance abuse/addiction and impulsive control disorders.

There have been multiple authors and some have suggested that there is a biological or genetic predisposition to the impulsive behavior of patients that could lead to the patient developing an addiction to any substance.

These findings can also help the various neurologists to understand the risk that the patients might have due to impaired-impulse control in their early lives.

If someone with an addiction problem is identified early, he or she can be taught some coping mechanisms and self-control techniques which can lead to lesser drug abuse and addiction and ultimately improve the quality of their life.

When going through an impulse control disorder treatment program, if one has substance use problems that need to be treated too

Impulse control disorders and alcoholism

According to some articles published on The National Center for Biotechnology, there have been multiple studies to study the relationship between alcoholism and impulsive control disorders.

One study found that impulse-control disorders in alcoholics are not related to impulsivity but rather to sensation seeking.

The good news is that both can be treated at the same time during rehab. That is because alcoholism and other forms of alcohol use problems treatment modalities are similar to impulse control disorder treatment modalities which we will be discussing below.

Impulse control disorders and drug addiction

After multiple studies regarding the relationship between drug addiction and ICD, scientists have the conclusion that both are not related to all.

However, once a patient shows ICD symptoms, they might develop habits that can lead to drug addiction and substance use. Drug abuse is treated by some of the treatment modalities that are already used for impulse control disorder treatment.

There have been multiple patients who tend to develop a habit of drug addiction after developing the symptoms of ICD.

What really matters is that both are addressed and treated properly if one is diagnosed with both. So while getting help for drug addiction, ICDs needs to be addressed if one is diagnosed with it too.

Impulse control disorder treatment modalities

There are many impulsive control disorders and they can be treated with the help of several programs at rehab centers as mentioned below:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This is the most common form of treatment for ICD patients. This type of treatment focuses on the way of thinking of the patient and the consecutive actions that they perform. It works on the principle that whenever any event occurs, the patient responds to it according to what effect the event has on the patient and what the patient feels about the event. This type of treatment becomes essential if the actions of the patient disrupt the normal functioning of life in the surroundings.
  • Motivational Interviewing: This treatment is usually used for people who are addicts. It strengthens the patient’s will to change for the better and improve the quality of his/her own life. It is based on the principle of ambivalent thoughts in the patient’s brain which provides the impulse and propels the patient to do something that might be treated as an impulse. The therapist constantly questions the patient as to how he/she wants to change and what is the path that they would choose to improve.
  • Relapse Prevention: As the name suggests, this form of treatment prevents the patient from returning to their initial situation which brought them to therapy. People generally turn to any form of substance abuse when they want to hide or kill any emotion. In this type of treatment, the patient is inspired to think of other ways that can be used as an outlet for all the suppressed emotions. The therapist tries to bring out the creative side of the patient and help him realize that substance abuse is not the only option.
  • Contingency Management: This is also another form of treatment used by therapists to treat patients who suffer from substance abuse and alcoholism. This form of treatment thrives on the policy of rewarding in case of acquiring a certain objective. The patients are treated whenever they can successfully achieve a positive object which will improve the quality of their life. The therapist also uses certain disciplinary measures if the patient acts up or does not act positively.
  • Family Therapy: Patients suffering from ICD can deeply impact their families physically, mentally, financially, and psychologically. Family Therapy is a means of educating the family about the patient’s exact problem and the ways the family can help the patient’s recovery. The family members are also encouraged to share stories of broken relationships that might have led to the present mental disorder of the patient and the consecutive events.

Rehab program options for ICDs

Many rehabilitation centers help patients with ICDs get back to their feet with maximum effort.

These impulse-control rehab centers offer patients many ways to receive their treatment sessions.

Some of the rehab options are:

  • Inpatient/residential Rehab: This option allows the patient to live at the facilities for the duration of their treatment. The patient attends treatment sessions, sleep, eat, take medications and other activities at the facility. The residential rehab is usually offered to those with severe and chronic impulse disorder.
  • Outpatient Rehab: In this option, the patient goes from their home to the rehab center to get treatment and then go home after each treatment session.  Outpatient rehabs are usually a step-down program after inpatient rehab.
  • Intensive Outpatient Rehab: This is a type of outpatient rehab program that is more intense than the regular outpatient.
  • Partial Hospitalization: The patient stays in his or her own home and travels to the treatment center for up to seven days to get the required treatment. This is considered a fulltime treatment like the inpatient rehab except that the patient does not sleep

When you speak with the right impulse control disorder treatment center, they will help set up and recommend the right program for you based on factors such as the severity of your disorder, insurance, work, financial capability et cetera.

Rehab center’s process

Before going into an impulse control disorder treatment program, it is helpful to understand how the steps and process for the rehab programs work.

Below is the typical rehab process:

  • Assessment of disorder & addiction: The patients undergo many physical tests and examinations to provide the medical staff with the required details of the level of disorder and/or addiction, the healthy state of the patient, and the personal needs, This is done to create a personalized treatment program for the patients for quick recovery.
  • Medical detoxification: This is for the patients who are dual-diagnosed with impulse control disorder and substance abuse. During the process of detoxification, the patients are under constant medical surveillance system. Sometimes patients are administered some strong medications to help manage the withdrawal symptoms from the substance being abused or addicted to.
  • The actual rehab starts: This part of rehabilitation involves a counselor who guides the patients to overcome their impulsive problem that might have been caused due to many factors. Therapists try to uncover the actual reason behind impulse control disorder and/or alcohol/drug abuse. The patient will learn relapse control, attend behavioral and psychotherapy sessions et cetera.
  • Aftercare: This is the final part of the program which comes after the rehab program has finished. The recovery process for the patient continues in the form of continued psychotherapy, job skills development, support group attendance, transitional houses, sober living facilities, and follow-up programs. All these programs keep the patient motivated and prevent any form of relapse.

This is a long process that requires a lot of dedication and willpower on part of the patient as well as his or her family and friends.

Get professional help today!

If you a loved with an addiction and impulse control disorder please contact us now for a free no-obligation consultation with an addiction & impulse control disorder treatment facility.

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