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Teenage Impulse Control Disorder

Updated on October 1, 2020

What is Teenage Impulse Control Disorder?

The commonly used term Impulse Control Disorder refers to a large group of medical conditions related directly to impulsive behavior. This covers a very large range of medical conditions ranging from substance abuse problems to pathological gambling. In many teenagers these conditions present themselves in a variety of behavioral traits. The grouping of disorders as recognized by the American Psychiatric Association is as follows:


Pyromania is most prevalent in teens and adolescents. This condition causes uncontrollable urge to start fires in a person’s environment. There has been a degree of association made between the disorder and the lack of a father in the household during a child’s early years. In addition individual circumstances associated to this behavior type include conditions in which a teen or child feels the impulse for revenge based activity. Often this is associated to teens and children who have been excessively bullied or exhibit attention seeking behavior trends such as running away and over sexual activity.


This Impulse Control Disorder is associated to the urge to steal material items purely for pleasure. It is estimated that this disorder can be associated to around 5% of all shoplifting crime in the United States. As many as 100,000 arrests are made per year related to teens and individuals exhibiting behavior similar to Kleptomania.

Pathological Gambling

Approximately 7-10% of teens and adolescents have shown behavior related to this condition. Pathological gambling is defined as excessive gambling behavior that directly affects an individual’s ability to function socially and within a family structure. This disorder can be extremely damaging to others around the person with the condition and traits tend to show up in teenage years of development.


It is estimated that around 3% of females and 1.5% of males in the United States suffer from this unique condition. Trichotillomania is the impulse to remove hair from one’s own body. The condition is described as offer a brief moment of relief during the pulling process typically followed by a need to repeat the action over and over. Many patients diagnosed with this condition appear to not be aware that they are even doing it and did not report any feelings of anxiety or satisfaction related to it.

Treatment Options for Impulse Control Disorders

There are two major types of treatment that are traditionally available to deal with Impulse Control Disorders in teenagers. These include pharmaceutical treatment options and psychological treatments.

Pharmaceutical Treatment Options

Antidepressants are the most traditional form of medication for Impulse Control Disorders. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants have been shown to address chemical imbalance attributed to the disorder as a result of low cerebral serotonin in an individual.

Psychosocial Treatment Options Cognitive Behavior Therapy has been shown to have positive effects on treatment of Impulse Control Disorders. In particular this strategy is effective in treatment of compulsive gambling and sexually related impulse behavior. Psychosocial treatment programs have also been shown to have a positive effect in the treatment of teens and children suffering from Pyromania. This treatment has not shown the same positive effects in adults with the same condition.

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