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Impulse control disorder is a set of psychiatric disorders that usually occur between the ages of 7 and 15. These disorders are a part of the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum. People affected by these disorders usually have problems resisting the urge to do something that is harmful for them or for the others. The ability to control impulses or primitive urges is actually what marks human psychological maturity and distinguishes humans from the other living animal species. The impulsiveness characteristic for these disorders, usually appear as seeking a small and short-term gain at the expense of a large long-term loss. People affected by this disorder demonstrate failure to resist their behavioral impulsiveness.

The impulse control disorder mechanism

People who are having problems controlling their impulses usually do not think about their actions and consequences of the actions before they act. An individual with impulse control disorder usually feels the increasing tension or arousal before committing the act that is considered as a manifestation of the disorder. During the act, the individual will feel pleasure, gratification and relief, but after the act is committed, the person will usually start blaming himself or feeling regret or guilt. The key feature is that affected persons do not plan their acts, but they fulfill their instant conscious wishes. For many of the sufferers, these disorders are a very hard burden that makes them really stressed and makes them feel like they have lost control over their lives.

Which disorders qualify as impulse control disorders?

Impulse control disorders include all kinds of addictions, physical and psychological dependence on different substances such as addiction to alcohol and drugs, eating disorders, compulsive gambling, sexual fantasies and behaviors involving non-human objects, kleptomania, pyromania, suffering, humiliation of children, compulsive hair pulling, stealing, fire setting and intermittent explosive attacks of rage. Among the most widespread impulse control disorders is onychophagia, or compulsive nail biting. Nail biting affects around 30% of children between 7 to 10 years and 45% of teenagers. What actually differs impulse control disorders from similar disorders is that the difficulty controlling impulses is the primary feature of the disorder. Conditions such as ADHD or bipolar disorder may also have associations with difficulty controlling impulses, but it is not their main problem.

Causes of impulse control disorders

There is no definite answer to the question what causes impulse control disorders. However, certain factors including biological, emotional and cultural factors may contribute to the behavioral impulsiveness. Hormones associated with violence and aggression, such as testosterone, could also play a role in the disorders.

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