Impulsive Behavior & Substance Use - Music City Interventions

Impulsive Behavior & Substance Use

Impulsive behavior disorder is a type of mental health problem that causes a person to feel compelled to do certain things that seem overwhelmingly tempting to them. So it is also sometimes called an impulse control disorder (ICD). Unfortunately, ICD is one of the main contributors to substance abuse issues.

That means, in order for drug and alcohol treatment to be the most effective, this underlying condition has to be treated first. Many people often don’t realize that they have it though, so it is important to take a look at the symptoms of the disorder, the physical and emotional causes of it, and some of the methods of treating it.

Is an Impulsivity Disorder the Same as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Some psychologists believe that there is a strong connection between an impulsivity disorder and another common mental health problem called obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). That is because a person may start out with an impulsive urge to do drugs, steal, or cause physical harm, but, if it isn’t treated in time, it may turn into a strong compulsion.

The main difference between an impulsive behavior disorder and an obsessive compulsive disorder is that those who have OCD tend to repeat certain behaviors to avoid harm while those who have an impulse control problem can’t stop themselves from behaviors that cause harm.

What Are the Symptoms of ICD?

The symptoms of ICD vary from person to person. Most people who have it describe it as the feeling of not being able to control their actions though. This, in turn, causes them a great deal of stress and inner turmoil, which tends to exacerbate their drug and alcohol use.

This lowers their self-worth and causes them to become depressed, anxious, and irritable. It is also common for someone with impulsive behavior to begin to emotionally detach from others as a coping mechanism because they fear that they could harm anyone who gets close to them.

What is the Cause of Impulsive Behavior?

In order to understand what is the cause of impulsive behavior, one must look at the emotional and physical problems that may potentially be behind it. An example of the emotional problems would be a person with post-traumatic stress disorder from being abused as a child.

The difficulties that they went through could act as a trigger for ICD far into their adult years of life. This is especially common in people with ICD who not only feel compelled towards substance abuse, but also act in an explosive manner wherein they physically assault others.

The physical problems behind ICD are often due to some type of traumatic brain injury, which impairs the functioning of key areas of the brain that are responsible for reasoning and self-control. But a chemical imbalance may also be to blame since many people with ICD also have bipolar disorder.

What Are Some of the Ways That ICD Can Be Treated?

Treating impulsive behavior usually begins with individual counseling sessions to help get to the root of the emotional problems that could be causing the disorder. A medical check-up is needed as well because if any blood tests reveal that a person has a chemical imbalance in their brain or a low lithium level, then medications may be prescribed to try to correct the issues.

Family therapy sessions are often recommended too because the substance abuse problems that a person has often impacts the lives of their friends and loved ones. On top of this, any addictions that the person with ICD has developed must be dealt with, so they can finally work towards becoming sober.

As you can see, impulsive behavior disorder is a common mental health condition in people who struggle with substance abuse problems. If it is treated in time, it could lead to a person developing OCD or other more serious mental health conditions. So anyone who has concerns that they may have it should seek help right away from a licensed professional.


Music City Interventions specializes in services that help those addicted to substances and their families. Contact us today to learn how we can help with an impulse control disorder.