Classifying mental health disorders as anxiety disorders, mood disorders or impulse control disorders may not seem important if you’re suffering from a disease and just want help. But the distinction between repetitive behavior and obsessive-compulsive behavior is critical to mental health professionals. They’re responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of impulse control disorders and mental health issues that have a serious effect on people’s lives and relationships.

Mental health disorders are classified according to their most significant, debilitating and important characteristics. Post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias both involve anxiety, so they’re classified under “Anxiety Disorders.” While hair pulling may be compulsive, mental health experts currently regard impulse control as the disorder’s dominant feature.

Diagnoses of mental health disorders, whether OCD or impulse control disorders, are based on both the number and pattern of symptoms, so an overlap of potential diagnoses is possible. A mental health professional must evaluate and compare all the types of data available to diagnose mental health disorders.

Impulse Control Disorders and Mental Health Connections

Clear relationships exist between impulse control disorders and mental health conditions of different types. For example, some impulse control disorders with OCD–like repetitive thoughts and behaviors are considered Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders. According to, neuroimaging reveals that these Spectrum Disorders may share a neurobiological root with OCD.

Impulse control disorders and mental health conditions like mood, anxiety, eating and personality disorders and substance abuse often occur at the same time. The technical term for this is co-morbidity. While it can complicate treatment, it highlights the links between impulse control and mental health issues.

Mental Health Disorders Linked to Impulse Control

Along with OCD, mental health disorders specifically linked to impulse control include the following:

  • Conduct Disorders: Children with these mental health disorders frequently demonstrate problems with impulse control.
  • Major Mental Disorders: Impulsive behavior is common for patients in a psychotic state, or for bipolar disorder patients in a manic state.
  • Personality Disorders: Individuals with borderline, anti-social, narcissistic and histrionic mental health disorders can exhibit impulse control problems through risk-taking behavior, sexual promiscuity and threats of self-harm.
  • Substance Abuse: Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM) doesn’t include substance abuse as an impulse control disorder, research has demonstrated a strong connection between the two.
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries: Individuals who have had a serious head injury, particularly to the frontal cortex, may exhibit problems with impulse control.


AllPsych Online. (2004). Psychiatric disorders. Retrieved July 16, 2010, from (2010). Obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders. Retrieved July 16, 2010, from

Hucker, S. (2005). Impulse control disorders. Retrieved July 16, 2010, from

 Posted on : June 23, 2014