Man feeling the effects of addiction and impulse control deficit

Addiction and Poor Impulse Control

How are addiction and impulse control connected? Impulse control is an essential factor in successful addiction recovery. People who struggle with addiction often have difficulty controlling their impulses and exhibiting self-control when faced with temptation. The actual connection is between addiction and a lack of impulse control.

Addiction therapy can help individuals develop better impulse control and maintain their sobriety. Call 844.875.5609 to speak with someone from the knowledgeable team at Promises Behavioral Health about our addiction therapy programs offered throughout the United States.

About Addiction and Impulse Control

Impulse control naturally develops gradually as humans pass through childhood and adolescence and enter early adulthood. It belongs to a larger group of critical, higher-level mental skills known together as executive function. Psychologists and psychiatrists sometimes use the term “behavioral inhibitory control” to refer to restraining your impulses, considering your actions in advance, and rejecting behaviors likely to cause you harm or otherwise produce undesirable outcomes.

Impulse control is one of the core abilities of the fully developed human brain. Lack of this control in adulthood is linked to various mental health concerns, including the following:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Specific forms of bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance use disorders (SUDs)

In addition to SUDs, two forms of non-substance-based behavioral addiction are linked to a lack of impulse control—gambling disorder and Internet addiction.

Substance Addiction vs. Behavioral Addiction

Most adults are aware of substance addictions, also called substance use disorders. However, other types of addiction exist. The American Psychiatric Association officially acknowledged the existence of behavioral addictions in 2013. However, evidence for the existence of addictive relationships to certain pleasurable activities—including having sex, gambling, eating, and using the Internet—has been accumulating for some time.

Substance Use Disorders

People affected by SUDs have used a mind-altering substance long enough and often enough to trigger lasting chemical changes in the brain’s pleasure center inadvertently. The change in question essentially causes the brain to expect the continued intake of a given substance. When the expected intake does not occur, an addicted individual experiences unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that encourage a rapid return to substance intake. In addition to withdrawal symptoms, common indications of SUDs include the following:

  • An inability to set and maintain limits on substance use
  • A rising tolerance to the effects of a given substance
  • A pattern of daily behavior oriented around substance acquisition and abuse

Several SUDs clearly involve some impulse control deficit, including alcoholism, cocaine addiction, nicotine addiction, methamphetamine addiction, and ecstasy addiction. Impulse control deficiencies are not linked to heavy use of or addiction to cannabis and opioids.

Behavioral Addictions

Meanwhile, behavioral addictions often involve activities that may not even appear on the surface to provide any pleasure at all. This last factor—the presence of a reward after engaging in the action—provides the primary motivation for an individual with a behavioral addiction to continue doing what they do. The rewards associated with certain behaviors can be hard to track and measure, making them difficult to spot in others or even recognize in oneself. Common indications of such addictive behaviors include the following:

  • A preoccupation with the activity in question
  • An inability to set and maintain limits on the activity without help from others
  • Relationship problems stemming from excessive involvement in the activity
  • Financial issues caused by an inability to resist engaging in the activity

People affected by behavioral addiction also experience problems that are closely analogous to the symptoms of substance addiction, including lasting changes in brain function, an inability to set limits on participation in the behavior in question, and the onset of withdrawal symptoms when access to the behavior in question is unavailable. While not many behavioral addictions are linked to impulse control problems, that connection also exists—as it does with SUDs.

Find Treatment for Addiction and Lack of Impulse Control in the US with Promises Behavioral Health

Contact Promises today at 844.875.5609 to learn more about our addiction therapy programs and how they can help people struggling with SUDs or behavioral addictions overcome their problems and live happier, more meaningful, and more productive lives.

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