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impulse control disorder

Impulse control disorder is a set of psychiatric disorders including intermittent explosive disorder (hot-headedness), kleptomania (stealing), pathological gambling, pyromania (fire-starting), and three body-focused repetitive or compulsive behaviors of trichotillomania (a compulsion to pull one's hair out), onychophagia (compulsive nail biting) and dermatillomania (compulsive skin picking). The onset of these disorders usually occurs between the ages of 7 and 15. Impulsivity, the key feature of these disorders, can be thought of as seeking a small, short term gain at the expense of a large, long term loss. Those with the disorder repeatedly demonstrate failure to resist their behavioral impetuosity.

Impulse control disorders are considered to be part of the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum. The essence of emotional self-regulation is the ability to control one's impulses in the service of a goal.

There is disagreement as to the exact nature of behavioral addiction or dependency. However, the bio-psycho-social model is generally accepted in scientific fields as the most comprehensive model for addiction. Historically, addiction has been defined with regard solely to psychoactive substances (for example alcohol, tobacco and other drugs) which cross the blood-brain barrier once ingested, temporarily altering the chemical milieu of the brain. However, "studies on phenomenology, family history, and response to treatment suggest that intermittent explosive disorder, kleptomania, problem gambling, pyromania, and trichotillomania may be related to mood disorders, alcohol and psychoactive substance abuse, and anxiety disorders (especially obsessive-compulsive disorder)."

In the case of pathological gambling, for example, the American Psychological Association classifies the condition as an impulse control disorder and not an addiction.