The Facts Behind Impulse Control Disorders

When you have a loved one battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it’s easy to think of it as a simple lack of self-control, but those who know substance abuse from the inside out know that’s not the case. Addiction is often quite complicated and may have a host of contributing factors. For many people, Impulse Control Disorders (ICDs) can be one of those factors leading to an addiction.

Impulse control is a common trait in many disorders, but it may not be the defining feature—like in ADHD or states of bipolar disorder. Common ICDs and addictions include eating disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania.1

ICD Similarities to Substance Abuse

Impulsive office workerWhile Impulse Control Disorders are separate from other specific addictions, many of the characteristics that determine ICDs are very similar to those that determine substance abuse. They include the following:

  1. A pattern to resist impulses to engage in impulse control behavior
  2. Frequent engaging in a compulsive behavior to a greater and greater extent or over a longer period of time than intended
  3. Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop, reduce or control the impulsive behaviors
  4. Inordinate amount of time spent on impulsive behaviors
  5. Preoccupation with the behaviors or preparatory activities
  6. Frequent engaging in the behaviors when expected to fulfill occupational, academic, domestic or social obligations
  7. Continuation of the behavior despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent social, financial, psychological or physical problem that is caused or worsened by the behavior
  8. Need to increase the intensity, frequency, number or risk of behaviors to achieve the desired effect, or diminished effect with continued behaviors at the same level of intensity, frequency, number or risk
  9. Giving up or limiting social, occupational or recreational activities because of the behavior
  10. Distress, anxiety, restlessness or irritability if unable to engage in the behavior

Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you love is struggling with an ICD and addiction, please call The Oaks at La Paloma at our 24 hour, toll-free helpline. We are available to answer any questions you may have about addiction and addiction treatment. You don’t have to be stuck forever in the cycle of lacking impulse control. We offer specialized treatment to simultaneously with your ICD and addiction so that you are equipped to heal from both together. Please call today.


1 Ploskin, Daniel, “What Are Impulse Control Disorders?PsychCentral. 17 July 2016.

Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at The Oaks. For more specific information on programs at The Oaks, contact us today.