Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

“I” is for Impulse Control Disorder

Posted on: April 13, 2010

Impulse control disorders includes hot-headedness (intermittent explosive disorder), stealing (kleptomania), pathological gambling, fire-starting (pyromania), compulsive hair pulling (trichotillomania), compulsive nail biting (onychophagia), and compulsive skin picking (dermatillomania).  Individuals often resist these urges or attempt to quit in some way, and frequently fail.

The individual suffering with one or more of these conditions feels an irresistible urge to act out in the behavior, with increasing anxiety should the individual succeed in resisting for any length of time.  The anxiety is not relieved until the compulsion is fulfilled.

“What can be done?” you might ask.  “I chew my cuticles until they bleed.”  “I can’t stop raging.” “I can’t stop…..”  That is the key phrase here.  The urge appears for whatever reason, and resistance is futile, so the cycle continues.  Often there is shame or self-recrimination after the behavior, which may then trigger uncomfortable feelings, and then the urge to act out begins again, with ensuing anxiety if the behavior is resisted.

The solution is simple and complex.  The simple answer is that one just replace the troubling behavior with some other self-soothing behavior.  This is complex in that individuals are prone to relapse and often require treatment from a variety of perspectives, including medication, psychotherapy, spirituality, diet/exercise/stress management, and anything else that will help.

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