Impulse Control Disorders

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Impulse-Control Disorders: I Can’t Stop Myself

The origin of the word ‘impulse’ is the Latin word impellere, signifying ‘to impel’ or ‘to drive’. (Allen, Liebman, Park, Wimmer, 2001) An individual with an impulse-control disorder repeatedly receives a strong impulse to perform an unacceptable and potentially harmful action, feel they have no option except to perform it, and feel a sense of desperation if stopped. (Halgin, Whitbourne, 2008). They also go on to say that impulse-control disorders have three main components; individuals are unable to refrain on impulses, before the act, they experience tension and anxiety, or sometimes arousal that can only be relieved by the act itself, and they experience a sense of gratification or pleasure upon acting on their impulse. According to Hucker (2005) there are six major impulse-control disorders: intermittent explosive disorder, kleptomania, pyromania, trichotillomania, pathological gambling, and not otherwise specified, the first five being the most common. Dombeck (2009) indicates that the disorders are grouped together by one common condition: they all include a behavior that is done in an impulsive, uncontrolled manner that usually has self-destructive consequences. Intermittent Explosive Disorder

An individual with intermittent explosive disorder has a pattern of aggressive outbursts with violent urges to hurt others, or destroy property. (Allen et al., 2001) The individual’s behavior is bizarre for the situation; they overreact and are far more violent than an average person. (Libal, 2004) Halgin and Whitbourne (2008) indicate that people with this disorder often feel as though they lose control over their words and actions. They go on to say that due to the outbursts, individuals with intermittent explosive disorders suffer with work and their personal lives. Allen et al. (2001) say that symptoms include sudden rages at stressful times, physical symptoms before the outbursts, and emotional symptoms after the outburst. They note that the physical symptoms consist of palpitations and tightness in the chest, and emotional symptoms include feelings of drowsiness and depression. Mental health association (2005) says that this disorder may become noticeable through domestic violence. Allen et al. (2001) indicates that between the outbursts, the individual may show no sign of a problem. The American Psychiatric Association (2000) notes that the intermittent explosive disorder diagnosis is only given after other mental disorders, that have similar symptoms, have been ruled out. They continue to indicate that this disorder is rare. The diagnostic criteria, consistent with the American Psychiatric Association (2000): • Several episodes of behavior resulting in serious assault or destruction of property • Aggressiveness expressed during the episode is bizarre compared to any sudden psychosocial stressors • The outbursts are not explained by another mental disorder or general medication. Intermittent explosive disorder is prevalent in males, and the individual usually denies responsibility of their outburst, blaming something, or someone else. (Franklin, 2003) He goes on to say that the individual’s lack of control is a big part of the problem, and inability to acknowledge responsibility for the destruction relieves the guilt, making it hard to make any changes in the behavior. Franklin (2003) also suggests that this disorder usually brings legal problems for the individual from the destruction and violence. An electroencephalograph (EEG), a machine that traces brain waves provided findings that show that individuals with this disorder display abnormalities. (Bayer, 2001) This disorder begins anywhere from childhood into the twenties, and the onset may be abrupt. (Allen et al., 2001) They further note that as an individual reaches their fifties and older, the outbursts of aggression are less likely to occur. Treatment for...
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