Impulse Control Disorders


Whether the advice is to “look before you leap” or “think before you speak,” controlling impulses is considered a sign of maturity. When it comes to impulses, what feels like a good idea in the moment usually doesn’t produce the desired effect in the long term. Most significantly, an inability to control impulses can lead to legal problems.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that promotes instant gratification. We are told to give in to our urges, that we deserve to indulge ourselves. Alternately, we’re told to unload our feelings, to not hold back. We admire people who speak their mind.

Even the most mature adults can reach their limits. We blurt out hurtful words when we’re frustrated. We pour a drink at the end of a stressful workday. But when bad days become too frequent or one drink leads to one too many, it could indicate that you’re unable to control your impulses.

Those who have trouble controlling their impulses are vulnerable to a variety of addictions:

Although it isn’t officially listed as an impulse control disorder, many people do experience compulsive shopping as an unwanted addiction. Often made light of in such expressions as “shop ‘til you drop,” “shopping therapy” or “shopaholic,” people who cannot control their impulsive buying can end up in serious debt.

Because this disorder follows a pattern of behavior from feelings of tension that build up to performing the action (drinking, gambling, etc.) to feelings of remorse or guilt, treatment often focuses on identifying the cycle of behavior and learning strategies to regain control. But because impulse control disorders often accompany other disorders, medications for those disorders can sometimes assist with curbing impulsivity.

Contact Saginaw Psychiatry to schedule an appointment and begin changing your life.