While scientists don’t yet know what causes impulse control disorder, it is characterized by a chronic inability to control emotions and behaviors. Typically there will be no recognition of the effects or consequences of the actions, no matter how harmful or extreme. Children and adolescents who have impulse control disorder will often have significant difficulties with social, personal, academic, and family relationships. They do not have the skills needed to manage their behavior and emotions in ways that are appropriate to the situations. Treatment options have been shown to help teens overcome their impulse control issues.

Types of Impulse Control Disorders

There are several ways in which an impulse control disorder may present in your teen, including:

Pyromania: This disorder is when a teen purposefully sets things on fire in an attempt to relieve tension or to experience instant gratification. Adolescents with pyromania are different from arsonists in that they have a genuine but unhealthy fascination with fire and experience true pleasure from the results of their fire-starting. Arsonists on the other hand set fires for financial or other personal gains like revenge.

Kleptomania: Even though they know it is wrong and pointless, teens suffering from kleptomania will repetitively steal and hoard items. Often they do not even want what they steal; it is more about feeling the tension before the act, then the pleasure and gratification of the theft that drives them. Kleptomania is a response to an impulse that seems uncontrollable to them. The teen is rarely if ever stealing out of a desire to harm, a feeling of vengeance or a need for the item they are stealing.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder: This disorder manifests in recurrent physical and/or emotional outbursts that are commonly aggressive. Usually, there is a period of tension leading up to the outbursts followed with remorse and possibly embarrassment once the situation has subsided.

Compulsive Sexual Behavior: Teens experiencing compulsive sexual behavior will have excessive and what feels like uncontrollable thoughts or behaviors focused on all things sexual. The desires to participate overrule the person’s ability to function in daily life. This behavior can manifest in excessive masturbation, exhibitionism, promiscuity, voyeurism, fetishes, and pornography use.

If your adolescent or teen is struggling with any of the types of impulse control disorder listed above, you are not alone. It is a mental illness, and there is help available for your child and your family. We are here to help. If you want more information about resources available, you can contact the Assessment Center at 907-789-4733. If you are in crisis, our emergency facility, Cornerstone Emergency Shelter is located at 9290 Hurlock Avenue (just around the corner from the Skate Park). We’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. You can reach us at 907-789-7654. There is help available; you do not have to go through this alone.