Impulses are defined by the need or urgency to perform a certain behavior, using emotion and leaving aside reason .

When the person experiences this feeling, it sets in motion our ability to self-control to decide what to do and to what extent we let ourselves be carried away by this impulse.

However, there is a part of the population that finds it very difficult to manage the impulses and carry out the action, regardless of the possible consequences of the action. In these cases, the well-known Impulse Control Disorder appears. Let us see how it is treated in therapy.

What is an Impulse Control Disorder?

Impulse Control Disorder is characterized by the impossibility or great difficulty in resisting an action , even when the behavior is harmful to the person or his environment.

According to Ana Claudia Alda, psychologist at the Psychologists’ Office Málaga PsicoAbreu, during the impulse, the person experiences a state of tension and activation that is relieved by the performance of the behaviour. Thus, after completing it, he obtains a sensation of liberation and pleasure.

Sometimes people with this disorder feel guilt and remorse for the action they have taken.

It is a psychological problem that appears in adolescence and is maintained over time if there is no correct psychological intervention . Similarly, this disorder ends up affecting all areas of the individual, since his/her emotional management is affected in all areas of his/her life (work, academic, family, social or partner).

Classification of Impulse Control Disorders

The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) establishes the category of “Disruptive, impulse control and behavioural disorders” to include those disorders related to the regulation of behaviour and emotion . Thus, the following disorders are differentiated:

1. Oppositional defiant disorder

It consists of a pattern of irritability, anger, arguments, defiance or revenge in interpersonal relationships. This disorder appears in early childhood and adolescence.

Having this disorder may put you at risk of suffering emotional or behavioral disorders in the future . In these cases, there is evidence of a lack of management of the emotion of anger and of control of behaviour such as arguments.

2. Conduct disorder

The individual’s response pattern is a range of behaviours that violate the basic rights of others and age-specific social norms .

Self-control over these behaviours is practically non-existent, despite the consequences of engaging in them.

3. Intermittent explosive disorder

It is characterised by an aggressive response pattern that is disproportionate to the triggering situation.

These impulsive outbursts start very quickly and last less than 30 minutes. In addition to the main outburst, it is common to find verbal or physical aggression of lesser intensity.

4. Pyromania

The person suffering from this disorder has deliberately set or tried to set fires on several occasions .

Patients with this disorder usually experience a feeling of tension just before the fire starts, and it disappears after it has been started.

6. Kleptomania

It is characterized by the inability to resist the impulse to steal objects , even though they are not necessary for him. As in pyromania, a sense of tension is experienced before the stealing behavior, followed by a sense of relief and pleasure.

Other problems related to this disorder

In addition to these disorders mentioned, there are other problems that lack impulse control have in common. Some of them are the ones we will see in these lines.

1. Compulsive buying

This type of shopping is characterised by the fact that the person has a persistent need to buy , and is not able to resist it.

In addition, when you buy, you experience a sense of short-term pleasure. However, soon after, emotions such as disappointment and guilt appear, along with promises not to do it again.

2. Pathological gambling

The person who suffers from pathological gambling experiences the need to play in an uncontrollable way. This type of play is maintained despite the negative consequences that it entails in different spheres (family, work, economic, social).

3. Onychophagia

It is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to bite the nails, so that this behavior ends up becoming a daily habit. It usually appears in situations of stress, anxiety and distress .

4. Trichotillomania

It is an impulse to pull out your hair , leading to a great loss of hair. Although the person has tried to avoid doing so on multiple occasions, he or she is not able to resist the impulse.

Psychological intervention in these patients

Psychologist Ana Claudia Alda confirms that the most appropriate treatment for this type of disorder is psychotherapy . During the therapy in her work at the cabinet Psychologos Malaga PsicoAbreu different aspects are addressed that will help the person to control his impulses:

  • Identify pre-pulse stress signals.
  • Learning strategies of regulation excites he alternatives to the realization of behavior.
  • Working with thoughts that make impulse control difficult.

All of this must be accompanied by the supervision of the psychotherapist, who in addition to giving instructions participates in “training” the patients to overcome the Impulse Control Disorder.