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Image: Hair pulling. By: stuartpilbrow at Flickr. License: CC BY-SA 2.0


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM V), impulse control disorder (ICD) is now included within a group of disorders called disruptive, impulse control, and conduct disorders. They are defined as conditions comprising difficulties in the self-control of emotions and behaviors. These disorders are unique in that they are manifested in behaviors that violate the rights of others (eg, aggression, destruction of property) and/or that bring the individual into significant conflict with societal norms or authority figures.

Stages of Impulsivity

People with ICD often feel incapable of stopping their desire to engage in dangerous activities. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry states that these individuals usually experience 5 behavioral stages:

  1. Rising impulses
  2. Increase in internal tension
  3. Pleasure from acting on the impulse
  4. Sense of relief after acting
  5. Guilt or remorse after acting


Five types of ICD have been identified (see image).

Image: Five main types of disruptive, impulse control, and conduct disorders. By: Lecturio.

Pathological Gambling

Pathological gambling is characterized by repeated betting behavior that can have a significant negative effect on a person’s finances, profession, personal life, and relationships. It is mostly a chronic condition with a high chance of relapse that is associated with the following:

  • Impaired functioning
  • Reduced quality of life
  • High bankruptcy rate
  • Divorce and incarceration
  • Financial and marital problems
  • Illegal behavior such as stealing or embezzlement


Kleptomania is characterized by the desire to steal things in spite of understanding that these objects are of no monetary or personal value. Mostly, these thefts are unintentional and the items stolen are usually disposed of or never used. People with kleptomania feel a desire to steal when they become apprehensive or irritated, as they experience a feeling of relief or relaxation afterward.


Trichotillomania is characterized by repetitive or deliberate pulling of one’s hair. The condition can cause visible hair loss and results in clinically significant levels of misery or functional impairment. Most people suffering from trichotillomania tend to pull out hair from their head, eyelashes, eyebrows, legs, arms, face, and pubic region.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Intermittent explosive disorder is characterized by persistent, significant outbursts of aggregation that commonly lead to crimes against people or property. Outbursts happen regardless of outside stressors and cannot be expla