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Impulse control and addiction

Impulse Control Disorder (ICD) is usually characterized by urges and behaviors that are excessive and/or harmful to oneself or others or that cause significant impairment in social and occupational functioning. These urges and behaviors can also cause legal and financial difficulties. It’s very common for substance abuse or addiction to go hand in hand with mental health disorders. Addictions and compulsive behaviors are especially prevalent in people with ICD. Self-destructive addictive behaviors such as binge drinking, using drugs, overeating, compulsive shopping, sex addiction and pedophilia are all associated with ICD.

According to Dr. Judson Brewer and Marc Potenza, the “[b]asic characteristics of ICDs include repetitive or compulsive engagement in a specific behavior despite adverse consequences, diminished control over the problematic behavior and tension or an appetitive urge stated prior to engagement in the behavior.” Impulsive behaviors due to ICD or other impulse disorders, such as self-harming behaviors, not only affect the person with ICD but also affect the friends and family of the person with ICD. Many issues can occur as a result of a person not being treated for ICD, or other impulse control issues. Child abuse is quite prevalent among parents that have ICD.

ICD, along with its gripping addictive characteristics, is a very serious condition but thankfully it can be treated with therapy and medications. Most people are able to think before they act. When they have urges or thoughts about making certain actions, they think about the action, consider whether it would be detrimental to themselves or others and then decide on the next indicated action or reaction. Actions and reactions don’t usually turn into large issues or problems for most people.

Not everybody with addictive personalities has ICD, but some do. However, ICD characteristics are essentially impulsive behaviors that the person with ICD has become addicted to, despite the repercussions of his or her actions. Very much like a drug addict, the person with ICD has lost control over his or her behaviors and actions. Other mental health disorders involve impulse control, however it may not be their primary feature. For example, people with ADHD or bipolar disorder might exhibit difficulties controlling their impulses, but controlling their impulses isn’t their primary mental health issue.

The causes for ICD aren’t concrete, yet studies have shown that ICD could be the result of genetics. One’s environment in childhood could also factor into why somebody would develop ICD.

There are several signs and symptoms that may indicate a person is dealing with ICD. Characteristics of impulse control disorder include:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Sex Addiction
  • Compulsive shopping
  • Internet Addiction
  • Alcohol Addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Compulsive gambling
  • Trichotillomania (hair pulling)
  • Theft or kleptomania
  • Setting fires or pyromania
  • Explosive attacks of rage

Getting treatment for ICD is incredibly important as it can prevent a variety of problems in one’s life and the lives of friends and family. Knowing what causes this disorder and what actions are pre-determined and intentional can be very confusing for anybody having to live or work with a person with ICD. It can be incredibly hard on the person with ICD as well, as they have to live with the consequences and guilt of their actions.

Studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy is very beneficial for someone with ICD because it teaches a person to stop, think and listen to internal thoughts. Working with an experienced therapist to track internal negative thoughts and testing for the accuracy of one’s belief system or worldviews can progress into an extremely positive way to control the feelings a person has. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be used to teach a person with ICD how their actions and thoughts affect the way they feel, which in turn has a very strong influence on the impulsive choices that are made.

To learn more about treatment for ICD you can call the Recovery Helpline at 855-441-4405 for more information.

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