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Impulse Control Disorders in Women

By HERWriter
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Most people have some types of impulses that they can’t easily control in certain scenarios. For example, when shopping it can be hard to avoid splurging on some wanted items, and then there’s the regret later on. However, people can generally come to acknowledge their limits and to even avoid certain situations that challenge their self-control.

Impulse control disorder sufferers don’t have problems controlling their impulses only sometimes; it’s all the time. A review on impulse control disorders (ICDs) said that there are three defining characteristics of ICDs:

"1. The failure to resist an impulse to perform some act that is harmful to the individual or others;
2. An increasing sense of arousal or tension prior to committing or engaging in the act;
3. An experience of either pleasure, gratification, or release of tension at the time of committing the act.”

ICDs are often associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling) is shown to have a high comorbidity rate with OCD.

The two official ICDs that are more common in women are trichotillomania and kleptomania, where a person steals for no actual reason besides the compulsion.
According to the NYU Langone Medical Center, kleptomania is the “inability to resist impulses to steal,” and it can be comorbid with depression, anxiety, other impulse control disorders, eating disorders and substance abuse.

A couple of impulsive behaviors that have been considered as ICDs or OCD but are not official in the DSM-IV-TR are hoarding, compulsive-impulsive (C-I) shopping, C-I sexual behaviors, C-I skin picking and C-I Internet usage disorder. However, some still consider these as disorders currently. For example, the International OCD Foundation lists sexual activity and excessive shopping under its impulse control disorders section.

In another review article, Donald Black from the University of Iowa said that compulsive buying disorder (CBD) seems to be more prevalent in women, since 80 percent of those studied have been women. There is “a lifetime prevalence of 5.8 percent in the U.S. general population.”

CBD is still not classified, but has been liked to OCD, addictive disorders, mood disorders and ICDs. The article said that “subjects with CBD report a preoccupation with shopping, prepurchase tension or anxiety, and a sense of relief following the purchase.”

Chronic skin picking is considered to be related to trichotillomania and is called a body-focused repetitive behavior, according to the Trichotillomania Learning Center . Like trichotillomania, skin picking can be used to relieve anxiety. Women tend to suffer more often than men from this disorder, and it can affect up to one in 20 people, according to the International OCD Foundation.

For more information about impulse control disorders and other mental disorders, talk to a mental health professional.


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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.