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The Crucial Role of Impulse Control Disorder

Mastering Anger Management: The Crucial Role of Impulse Control Disorder

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Anger is a natural human emotion, but it can harm personal relationships, professional life, and overall well-being when left unchecked. 

In this blog, we will explore the condition of impulse control disorder, since the road to better anger management is to understand behavior.

Impulse control disorders (ICDs) are a group of mental and behavioral disorders that involve a lack of self-control and a failure to resist the urge to perform harmful actions. The five main types of impulse control disorders are:
* Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
* Conduct Disorder (CD)
* Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)
* Pyromania
* and Kleptomania. 

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is mostly seen in children and adolescents determined to defy authority figures. Some go on to develop conduct disorder (CD), which becomes a more severe pattern of violence, substance use, and/or criminal activity. However, the stats on this is about 3.3% and 3.4% of the population respectively. 

People with pyromania have trouble suppressing their urge to start fires, while people with kleptomania fail to resist their impulse to steal.


People with intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is an impulse control disorder that involves repeated episodes of angry outbursts that are extremely disproportionate to the situation. As many as 7% of people will meet this diagnostic criteria for IED at some point during their lifetime.

A person displaying an intermittent explosive disorder (IED) will :

  • Be verbally aggressive
  • Start arguments
  • Physically assault others
  • Destroy property or possessions
  • Threaten others

* To meet the DSM-5 criteria for IED, these angry outbursts can’t be related to any other mental health disorder or medical condition. They also can’t occur while someone is taking a particular medication, drinking, or using drugs.

Understanding Impulse Control Disorders:

People with anger management issues often have poor impulse control and can lack the skill in emotional regulation. This brings us to rule no 1: Stop, think and take a look at the bigger picture. You’ll learn more about that on a course. 

Impulse control disorders can involve a severe, long-lasting pattern of disruptive, harmful, and/or risky behaviors. This looks like: 

  • Argumentativeness
  • Threatening to harm others
  • Verbal or physical outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Vindictiveness
  • Breaking rules and/or the law
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Fighting
  • Bullying
  • Cruel treatment of animals
  • Stealing
  • Lack of empathy
  • Skipping school or work
  • Lying
  • Vandalism
  • Excessive drug or alcohol use


If left untreated, impulse control disorders can lead to:

  • Legal problems, including incarceration
  • Impaired or broken relationships
  • Poor performance in school 
  • Job loss and/or chronic unemployment
  • Substance abuse / addiction



Researchers have not identified a single known cause of impulse control disorders. Genetics, social and environmental factors, brain structure, past trauma, and co-existing medical conditions (such as Parkinson’s disease) may all contribute to someone developing an ICD.

It is interesting that in Oppositional defiant disorder approximately 61% of cases are genetically inherited. Meanwhile, twin studies suggest that conduct disorder is passed down in families about 50% of the time.

Children with impulse control disorders like ODD or CD are significantly more likely than others to have been abused, neglected, harshly punished, or exposed to substance abuse or violence in the home. Environmental factors, such as childhood poverty, increase the risk. Read our article on Adverse Childhood experiences or do the test here: 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – involves hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness and often exists alongside ODD. Up to 30%–50% of people with oppositional defiant disorder also meet the criteria for ADHD.

Other mental health conditions: Many people with impulse control disorders have other mental health conditions, including personality disorders, substance use disorders, mood disorders, depression, and anxiety. For example, up to 60% of people with kleptomania also suffered with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While, people with IED have higher-than-average rates of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and bipolar disorder.


The Link Between Impulse Control and Anger:

In the heat of the moment, anger can cloud our judgment and lead to impulsive reactions that we may later regret. A course in anger management will offer you insight into what your under-lying triggers are, how to implement time management and give you extra tools on a working strategy to not act your anger out. By mastering anger and impulse control, individuals can prevent escalating conflicts and damaging relationships that matter to them.


Benefits of Anger Management and Impulse Control:


Enhanced Communication:

Learning anger management will allow you to express your feelings in a more constructive and clear way, rather than succumbing to the emotional dysregulation and regression states. This, in turn, facilitates healthier communication, fostering understanding and resolution rather than extending conflicts.


Improved Decision-Making:

The potential for regrettable choices increases when anger is allowed to drive impulsive actions. Individuals can make decisions aligned with their values and long-term goals by mastering their impulse control disorder and improving their emotional tool-set. 


Strategies for working with Impulse Control Disorders:

Mindfulness and Meditation:

Practicing mindfulness techniques and meditation can help individuals become more aware of their emotions and reactions. It is designed to bring a deep understanding to the nature of the mind, and in that way, to not get caught in the mind’s incessant thinking – often negative and compulsive. This cultivates the ability to bring a ‘pause’ to one’s reactivity and therefore choose a measured response instead.


Anger Management Courses:

Seeking professional guidance from anger management experts can provide you with valuable tools and coping mechanisms to put in place. Anger Management sessions offer a safe space to explore triggers and practice effective strategies for managing strong feelings. In fact, understanding your feelings are often the biggest learning curve in our courses, since many people have learnt to suppress everything that they feel, leading to incontrollable outbursts. A 2018 study found that people with IED were able to control their anger more effectively after undergoing problem-solving and decision-making skills in a group setting.

Healthy Outlets for Expression:

Physical activities, such as exercise or sports, provide an outlet for pent-up emotions. Channeling energy into positive pursuits promotes physical well-being and contributes to emotional balance. However, without a talking therapy, often the roots of the impulse control disorder are missed.

If you or someone close to you is struggling to cope with anger and impulse control, the British Association of Anger Management is here to help. Explore our recognized anger management classes, offering a variety of courses tailored to your specific needs. If you’re unsure where to begin, we encourage you to schedule a 30-minute assessment call with our director and “anger guru,” Mike Fisher.

Source: https://www.verywellhealth.com/impulse-control-disorders-5272073

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