Exploring Common Causes of Impulse Control and Addiction Disorders

One of the greatest benefits of belonging to the human species is the ability to think before we act, and the ability to control our strongest urges and impulses, especially when the timing isn’t right. Unfortunately, impulsive behaviors are often difficult or impossible to manage for those who suffer from impulse control and addiction disorders.

Individuals who face problems with impulse control usually can’t resist urges to cause harm to themselves or to others, which can trigger a cascade of problems that affect their overall livelihoods. Impulse control disorder can sometimes lead to legal problems, social problems, financial problems, and the inability to maintain satisfying and successful work and family lives.

If you or someone you know is suffering from impulse control disorder, an addiction disorder, or both, call our helpline at 800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) to speak to an addiction specialist. Our counselors are available 24/7 to offer you guidance and resources in the form of therapists, psychiatrists, and treatment centers that can help you manage and control your disorder.

What Causes Impulse Control Disorder?

Impulse Control

Hormonal imbalances can cause an impulse control disorder.

Scientists and medical professionals aren’t exactly sure what causes impulse control disorder in certain individuals, but have identified certain factors that increase the risk for this condition. Since people with impulse control disorder tend to focus on one specific type of behavior, it’s not uncommon for these individuals to also form an addiction to drugs or alcohol, due to experiencing strong urges and impulses.

Based on scientific evidence, the most common causes of impulse control disorder stem from problems with chemical imbalances, genetics, coexisting mental health problems, and certain medications.

Chemical Imbalances

Studies have suggested that imbalances with neurotransmitters and hormones could lead to impulse control disorders in both men and women. For instance, men with high testosterone levels might be more predisposed to impulse control disorders of a violent and aggressive nature, such as pyromania or intermittent explosive disorder.

On the other hand, women with estrogen imbalances may be more predisposed to impulsive behavior in general, as well as impulse control disorders of a less aggressive nature, such as kleptomania or trichotillomania (the desire to pull out one’s hair). One study published in the Journal of Neural Transmission even found that dopamine imbalances increased the risk for impulse control disorder in those with Parkinson’s disease.

In these cases, those with chemical imbalances can manage their impulses and/or addiction disorders using prescribed medications or other treatments that can help address and correct neurotransmitter or hormonal imbalances.


Individuals who have family members with impulse control disorders are often predisposed to the same disorder, and are at higher risk for developing addiction and mood disorders. This means that parents who suffer from an impulse control disorder can pass their disorder onto their children.

While not directly related to genetics, some studies have also found that children raised in families that practice and exhibit violence, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and/or explosive behavior are more likely to develop impulse control disorders at some point in their lives.

Coexisting Mental Health Conditions

Individuals with certain mental health conditions are often more likely to develop impulse control disorders as well, which is known as dual diagnosis. For instance, those with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop an impulse control disorder, especially during manic episodes or mania, which is often characterized by lack of impulse control.

Other researchers theorize that mental health problems coexist with impulse control disorders because both conditions are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.

Common mental health conditions that tend to coexist with impulse control disorder include bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, antisocial personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, conduct disorder, and other depressive disorders.

If you suffer from a mental health condition and suspect you might be at risk for developing impulse control disorder, call our helpline at 800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) to speak with a counselor who can provide you with resources and information about available treatments.


Some prescribed medications have side effects that can increase a person’s risk for developing impulse control disorder and addiction. For instance, a 2014 study published in Pharmacology found that certain asthma medications can trigger mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorder — which in turn, increase the risk for impulse control disorder. Another study published in a 2013 issue of Medical Science Monitor found that medication used to treat malaria listed depression, anxiety, psychosis, and mood changes as side effects.

If you currently take medications that might be contributing to impulse control disorder, consult with your physician about alternative treatments that can help you reverse or manage your condition.

Or, call our helpline at 800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) to speak with a counselor who help you find treatment to manage impulse control and addiction disorders. When combined with your dedication to stick to treatment, the right type of therapy can help you prevent certain impulses from affecting your life.


I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE NOWI NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE NOW800-598-5053Response time about 1 min | Response rate 100%
Who Answers?

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) could be forwarded to SAMHSA or a verified treatment provider. Calls are routed based on availability and geographic location.

The Disorders.org helpline is free, private, and confidential. There is no obligation to enter treatment. In some cases, Disorders.org could charge a small cost per call, to a licensed treatment center, a paid advertiser, this allows Disorders.org to offer free resources and information to those in need by calling the free hotline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses.