The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV) catalogues the defined mental health disorders so that clinicians have a common language when discussing diagnoses and symptoms.
Impulse Control Disorders are their own “set” and include things such as:
- Trichotillomania (pulling out hair, eyelashes, eyebrows)
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder (extreme “explosive” behavior, often violent, with little provocation)
- Pathological Gambling
- Kleptomania (stealing)
- Pyromania (fire-setting)
These disorders are named impulsive because there’s usually no premeditation involved. It’s as if the person cannot resist the drive to act in a way that can be harmful to themselves or others.
Treatment involves a combination of medications and therapy (mostly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy where the person practices identifying when the impulses arise and implementing alternative, safer, behaviors).
For us writers, developing characters with these disorders could be challenging, however, it also could create a lot of tension and conflict.