Mental Health Monday–I is for Impulse Control Disorder

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.


Remember, these posts are for writing purposes only and are NOT intended for medical advice or treatment. Be sure to check out Lydia and Sarah’s posts!!!

17 comments on “Mental Health Monday–I is for Impulse Control Disorder

  1. These do sound quite challenging. And, yes, challenging to write. Imaging the depths within these characters. Hmm….

  2. Doris says:

    I have seen some of those behaviors. Not the easiest ones to redirect. I think you’re right, it must be complicated to create characters with those disorders.

    Nice post.


  3. Great post. At first I thought it would be a solution to my frantic need to shop when I’m depressed, but then I kept reading. lol. That might be a great post for another Monday. Why do I feel the need to buy. lol. Have a great day!

  4. Sarah says:

    I love the them of your A to Z, Laura. Right up my alley. I worked in a group home for a while when I was in college. One of the residents had been diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder. She’d bitten another staff person’s thumb off in a fit of “explosive” rage before coming to live in our residential facility. Intense is right.

  5. Lynn Rush says:

    NICE! You’re giving me ideas for a new character…. 🙂

  6. Vicki Tremper says:

    Oh my. Could definitely create an interesting character with an ICD…

  7. Love your mental health mondays! Thanks for the post!

    ❤ Gina Blechman

  8. lenny lee says:

    hi miss laura! for sure i got peanutbuttrcupomania cause i just gotta have one. ha ha. for sure doing a character thats got one of those icds could get lots of conflict going in a story. i think i could like to try one of them in a story.
    …hugs from lenny

  9. Lydia K says:

    These make for some really interesting character issues! Thanks Laura, great post!

  10. I love your site and as I browsed your blog I decided to award you the Fantastic Fantasy Award.
    Go to and pick up your award.

  11. I knew a person with kleptomania. She was a sweet person, the last one I’d ever expect to shoplift. It was a compulsive thing that made no sense. She learned to deal with it, perhaps because she had to face the consequences.

    I would have a difficult time portraying a character having an impulsive disorder. I don’t understand it myself, and I think readers might find it hard to believe. This could make the character seem unreal. Yet, I know it does happen in people that seem normal in their other manners and behaviors.

    Thank you for sharing this information. Blessings to you, Laura…

  12. This type of personality disorder can certainly add tension to a ms. It could be an interesting challenge to fit a character in with this disorder.

  13. I can see what a challenge all of these traits would be. My current wip has an antagonist who is a national hero for a cure he discovered. His problem is the other person in his thoughts. I am finding this a challenge to show how slowly the dominant personality takes over the positive one. And since this is fantasy, it really is another person who is living inside the antagonist mind. Hehehe.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  14. Reese. It begs me to eat it. Mmmmmmmmmmm

    I have an idea swirling about a character. A brand new character. I owe it all to you Laura. You rock. When he’s fully developed, I’ll show him to you. 🙂

    Reese. I heart you.

  15. Er, the Reese, me and Lenny! 🙂

  16. Donna Hole says:

    That tricho thing sound right for one of my female characters. I’m wondering if this is somethign that could manifest after years of addiction, or that would just fall under dual disorders?

    Interesting character traits indeed . .


  17. […] this link: Mental Health Monday–I is for Impulse Control Disorder « Diamond … Posted in Impulse control disorder Tags: catalogues-the-defined, common-language, […]

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