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Symptoms of Impulse Control Disorder

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All people experience impulsivity here and there, as it is a normal human behavior. While for most people impulsivity does not interfere with their everyday lives, many people experience the toll their impulsivity can have on themselves and those around them. Typically, these individuals are those who have an impulse control disorder, which is a condition where a person cannot control engaging in a specific type of behavior or set of behaviors. 

5 Types of Impulse Control Disorder and Their Symptoms 

There is more than one type of impulse control disorder. Some of them affect adults more frequently than children and vice versa. Others occur in the lives of those who have faced certain traumas or who have been predisposed to mental illness. Either way, the presence of an untreated impulse control disorder can be extremely disruptive. 

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) 

Intermittent explosive disorder is a type of impulse control disorder characterized by unnecessary and unjustifiable angry outbursts. Someone who has intermittent explosive disorder may suddenly burst out into a fit of rage for no reason or become so deeply angry over something that doesn’t warrant such a strong emotional response. For example, if someone has intermittent explosive disorder and gets cut off in traffic, they may do something like get out of their car and confront the driver who cut them off or drive them off the road with their own car out of sheer rage. Of course, people do find themselves overcome with extreme anger from time to time in their lives, but those who have intermittent explosive disorder experience this on a regular basis. 

Some of the most common symptoms associated with intermittent explosive disorder, or IED, include the following: 

  • Blind rage 
  • Heightened energy
  • Tremors
  • Palpitations 
  • racing , uncontrollable thoughts
  • Irritability 
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shouting
  • Shoving or pushing
  • Temper tantrums
  • Angry tirades
  • Physical fights
  • Threats to harm others
  • Damaging property 

After an episode, someone with intermittent explosive disorder may feel completely drained both physically and emotionally. Depending on the severity of their condition, they may also find themselves feeling guilty, shameful of their actions, and remorseful for their participation in the outburst.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

Oppositional defiant disorder, which is often referred to as ODD, is an impulse control disorder that can be detected in the youngest of children as well as adults. When someone is oppositional, it means that they are being difficult, stubborn, and are doing what they can to go against the grain. While people of all ages find themselves being oppositional here and there in their lives, those with oppositional defiant disorder experience symptoms related to this disorder frequently and enough to cause problems in all areas of their lives. 

Symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder, even in children as young as ages 3 and 4, can include the following:

  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Spiteful attitude
  • Excessive arguing with adults
  • Revenge-seeking behavior
  • Deliberately attempting to annoy or anger people
  • Refusing to comply to rules set by adults or other individuals in a position of authority
  • Blaming others for their behavior or mistakes
  • Excessively questioning rules 
  • Being easily annoyed by others 

A person who has oppositional defiant disorder is going to exhibit these behaviors in several different settings. For example, a school-aged child may have noticeable symptoms at home, at school, and during extracurricular activities. An adult with ODD may express symptoms at home, work, and among friends. 

Conduct disorder 

Conduct disorder is an impulse control disorder that most commonly occurs in children. They display several different behaviors that are marked as antisocial and negatively impact themselves and those around them. It is believed that conduct disorder is linked to impairment of the frontal lobe of the brain, which can help children learn from their mistakes and better control their impulses. It is also believed that children with conduct disorder have experienced trauma such as poverty, abuse, parental substance abuse, and violence. 

Symptoms of conduct disorder can vary from child to child, but often include a combination of the following:

  • Stealing
  • Bullying others
  • Initiating physical arguments
  • Breaking into someone else’s home, car, or other personal property
  • Causing harm via a weapon
  • Running away from home
  • Using sexual force on others
  • Being cruel to animals
  • Staying out late without permission 
  • Constantly missing school

Some of the most concerning symptoms of conduct disorder include lack of remorse, empathy, and concern, as well as lack of emotional expression.

Kleptomania 

Put very simply, kleptomania is the act of constantly stealing things for no reason and that are not needed. Stealing things becomes compulsive and a person’s ability to stop themselves from engaging in that behavior is almost non-existent. Without the proper treatment, people with kleptomania can find themselves in a great deal of legal and financial problems. 

Symptoms of kleptomania include:

  • Stealing for no other reason than the overwhelming feeling of needing to do so
  • Becoming anxious, tense, or aroused prior to stealing
  • Experiencing gratification while in the process of stealing
  • Having strong feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, and self-loathing after stealing
  • Stolen items are typically never used 
  • The items that are stolen have no value to the person stealing them 
  • The urge to steal comes on spontaneously 

Stealing for whatever reason can cause pain, hurt, resentment, and anger in everyone that it affects. People who suffer from kleptomania can obtain treatment to help manage their symptoms to prevent these behaviors from reaching their peak again. 

Pyromania 

People who are usually interested in fire to the extent where they are preoccupied with it may be experiencing pyromania. Pyromania is an impulse control disorder where a person experiences an uncontrollable need to set things on fire regardless of the repercussions it may cause.


Symptoms of this very specific type of impulse control disorder include:

  • Setting fires on purpose on more than one occasion
  • Getting pleasure from seeing or setting fires
  • Getting tense before setting fires and then a release afterwards
  • Being extremely attracted to seeing or setting fires

A person presenting with these symptoms can only be diagnosed with pyromania if their symptoms are not better explained by another mental illness. 

Do You Need Help? 

If you are experiencing an impulse control disorder or think you may have one but have not yet been diagnosed, call us right now. Allowing a condition such as this to continue without intervention can make your life drastically worse as time goes on. Let us help you get control of your impulses so you can live a happy, healthy life. 

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