Impulsive Behaviours  

What is it

Some people’s lives are significantly affected due to difficulties with self-control. Impulse-Control disorders are conditions that feature difficulty regulating emotions and behaviour. For example, resisting a temptation, urge or impulse may be very difficulty even though the behaviour may be harmful or violate the rights of others. In some cases, this can lead to conflict with authority figures including the law. Under this category are issues such as serious behavioural problems (eg. Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder), significant anger problems (Intermittent Explosive Disorder), deliberately setting fires (Pyromania), and stealing (Kleptomania).(American Psychiatric Association, 2013) Other conditions that feature difficulty in managing urges and impulses include pathological gambling, compulsive shopping, compulsive sexual behaviour, internet addiction, hair pulling, skin picking and substance addiction. Psychologists may play a role in treatment of any of these conditions.

What does it include

A psychologist is likely to gather information to understand the presenting issues, then tailor an evidence-based  treatment that is designed for the individual. Impulse control disorders are still poorly understood in the scientific community, but there is some evidence supporting the following treatments.

(1) Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – This may involves identifying high risk times for acting on urges, increasing awareness about when the action is occurring and then replacing the undesirable behaviour with a different behaviour with fewer consequences (habit reversal). This may be combined with activities designed to relax and reduce tension (relaxation training).

(2) Parenting skills training – If a child or young person is experiencing impulse control difficulties, the psychologist is likely to involve the parents and possibly teachers to offer some guidance on managing difficult behaviours. This might involve teaching Triple P parenting techniques or developing an individualised plan.

(3) For some impulse control disorders, medication as prescribed by a GP or psychiatrist may be helpful. Treatment by a psychologist with often occur in partnership with a medical professional (Grant & Leppink, 2015).

If impulse control is an issue for you or a loved one, talk to a psychologist as well as your family doctor for support and treatment. 


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.

Grant, J. E., & Leppink, E. W.(2015). Choosing a treatment for disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders. Current Psychiatry.January;14(1):29-36.

If you require additional information, please call our office on 07 3256 6320. Our mental health focused reception staff will be only too happy to assist you with your enquiry about our service and can suggest the most suitable Psychologist for your concern.

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Psychologists who work in this service

Carolina Gonzalez
Carolina Gonzalez
Clinical Psychologist
Mary Kedwell
Mary Kedwell
Psychologist/ Family Therapist