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Impulse Control Disorder in College Students

What You Need to Know about Impulse Control Disorder in College Students

Impulse control disorder in college students can be defined as difficulty in resisting urges to engage in behaviors that are excessive to you and others. These are behaviors that can cause significant damage to a college student’s social and occupational functioning. The academic performance is also affected due to the emotional, financial and legal difficulties that the student experiences.

There are several characteristics of a behavior that can point to impulse control disorder in college students. These can include:

  • Its repetitive and compulsive nature
  • The diminished control over a behavior
  • The craving state that a student is in prior to engaging in the behavior.
  • The pleasurable feeling during the performance of the behavior.


According to Piney Ridge Treatment Center, there are several characteristics of the disorder, they include;

  • Sporadic explosive disorder: This is a recurrent outburst of aggression that is not proportionate to the outside stressors. It can result in assault acts against people and property. The behavior can affect your social life as a student as no one will want to be around a person who can blow up anytime.


  • Gambling: Both male and female students are prone to gambling though the male students have a higher tendency. Gambling often starts at a recreational level then it gets pathological. The students who often engage in gambling are usually over-confident, delusional, superstitious or highly competitive.

Constant gambling leads to decreased quality of life due to the time spent on it, financial and relationship problems. Poor academic results and personality disorders are other qualities associated with gambling students. In extreme cases substance abuse, anxiety and suicide are witnessed.


  • Compulsive buying: This is a shopping addiction. If you find yourself buying things that you don’t need, you most probably have this condition. There’s also the tendency of buying more than you can afford and spending a lot of time shopping. The behavior leads to distress due to the related financial problems, which then translates to poor performance in class and a dysfunctional social life.


  • Kleptomania: this is an uncontrollable urge to steal items some of which you don’t even need. Victim impulse control disorder in college students are known shoplifters. They are usually anxious and have high mood rates due to the fear of being apprehended.


  • Pyromania: This is characterized by deliberate and purposeful setting of fire on properties in order to get a feeling of psychological gratification and relief. Male students are the main culprits. The students with this condition is usually anxious and often abuse substances.


  • Trichotillomania: This is the pulling off of hair causing noticeable loss. Though the hair could be pulled from any part of the body, the scalp and eyebrows are the main areas affected. It’s a behavior associated with low esteem especially among girls. Students with this disorder will avoid social situations and fail to participate in group activities. Dating is also a problem. This problem is associated with anxiety and substance abuse.


  • Skin picking: This is the constant picking of the skin that can result to damaging of tissues.


  • Compulsive sexual behavior: Having recurrent and intense sexual fantasies and urges. These could include exhibitionism and voyeurism, masturbation, promiscuity and pornography. These behaviors are intended to reduce anxiety or increase pleasure. They are often triggered by particular states of mood especially sadness. The acts are followed by an intense feeling of shame.



  • Repetitive self-mutilation: Students with this habit engage in self harm. For example, burning or cutting their skin and interfering with the healing of their wounds. They experience tension immediately before hurting themselves, and then get relief after.


Most of the college students who experience these disorders are prone to mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders or personality disorders. The causes of impulse control disorder in college students could be genetic. Where one or both parents are also into the behavior. Verbal or physical abuse in the families of the college students can also contribute to most of these habits. Habits can also be learnt.

Impulse control disorder in college students can be disruptive, distressing and dangerous. But with the right treatment and guidance, it can be successfully cured. The treatment may involve rehabilitation, medication or habit reversal.

Medication is necessary in treating and preventing the continuation of an impulse control disorder in college students. Anti-depressants, mood stabilizers,opioid antagonists, atypical neuroleptics and glutamatergic agents are useful for treating most of the disorders.

Habit reversal helps a student to identify the occurrence of the action and then learn to replace it with something else that has less harm. It provides you with an alternative when you feel the need to engage in your destructive impulse. For example, if you pull your hair, you can master the art of clenching your fist every time you feel the urge to pull.

A therapist can also ask you to keep a record of where and when you felt the urge. This can make you know if there are specific people, things or places that trigger the urge. When you discover the pattern, you can be able to avoid the situations.

Counseling and anger management therapy is essential in dealing with the emotional triggers of most of the behaviors. These impulse control disorder statistics will help you to understand the problem more.

Even without the medication and therapy, with enough self-will, you can find a way out of the harmful habits. Some of the impulses are simply socially unacceptable and can cause you to be isolated or arrested. There is need for you to set self rules which will constantly act as a pre-committing device to the impulse control disorder in college students affecting you. Self control puts the key to achievement in your hands and helps you achieve your goals and have a productive college life.

You can achieve this by:

  • Monitoring yourself: Keep in check your thoughts, feelings and actions. Monitor your money usage and let it be only for the right purpose.
  • Set standards for yourself: Set personal standards to govern your behavior. Also keep to the standards set by the society, culture and your religious beliefs.
  • Master your strengths: There is too much energy required to control your impulses especially amidst exhaustion and stress. Do not allow such times to make you settle for the cheapest of the alternatives available.

Please read about anxiety disorder in college students and how to manage it.

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