In Syndromes & Disorders, Understand Bullying

Impulse Control Disorder and Bullying

Impulse Control Disorder

What is Impulse Control Disorder?

Impulse control disorders fall under psychiatric disorders that come about due to an act of impulse reaction. In this case, the individual cannot resist taking part in a given activity. Whether the activity harms them or other individuals is not of their concern. Many times, this impulsive disorder leads to changes in behavior and emotional effect.

However, the situation is not a full time disorder. There has to be a trigger for it to present itself. The following article looks at providing information useful at helping children and their parents to control impulse disorders so that children can stay clear of behavioral changes such as bullying. Furthermore, this article will explain what impulse control disorders contain in detail, the symptoms, side effects, causes, and treatment.

Definition of Impulse Control Disorder (ICD)

ICD are commonly considered as personality disorders where the individual cannot resist an impulse reaction. This is also evident in children and it is not that stubborn behavior your child seems to have from time to time. It is much more. The difference is that you will notice your child does not have control over their actions and discipline does not make him/her any better. There are a number of conditions that are categorized under this disorder. The commonly known disorders are:

Intermittent Explosive Disorder: The individual gets violent and aggressive, even over normal or petty circumstances.

Kleptomania: The individual is compelled to steal at every given opportunity and this acts is repetitive.

Pyromania: These individuals act on impulse to set fires and this behavior is also repeated over and over.

Compulsive Gambling Disorder: These individuals are hooked to gambling to the point that they may gamble away everything they own.

Trichotillomania: These individual will constantly spend time pulling their hair out.

Common forms of Impulse Control Disorders in Children

Children have also been noted to show symptoms of ICD. There are specific disorders that are more evident in children. The following will apply to children where we see changes their character. In children, it may be difficult to notice the symptoms, as children are naturally stubborn. However, you will notice extreme change in behavior and the repetition of the same action despite the pain or dysfunction it is bringing the child.

Kleptomania will push your child to stealing despite the endless lessons that theft is wrong. This may lead to the child bullying other students just to enable him/her obtain the item. In many cases, the child suffering from this disorder does not even need the items they steal. The bullying may also be an attempt to scare the other students.

Pyromania will cause your child to set items on fire. The items may or may not belong to the child and the child could resort to bullying to obtain the items that he/she feels a compulsion to set on fire.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder is also evident in children. They tend to showcase outbursts and they become very aggressive towards other children. Anything small may become an enormous problem seemingly out of nowhere. Other children who get in their way will oftentimes get bullied for no apparent reason.

Signs and Symptoms

Before making any conclusions, you need to look at the following signs and symptoms to make the right judgment. Though they will vary due to the disorder in question, the following guide will help you identify if your child needs help or if he or she is just being naughty. They are characterized into a number of factors. A combination of more than one of the following signs and symptoms should raise a parents concern. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Behavioral Symptoms

A change in behavior will help you identify a case of Impulse Control Disorder. If your child is showing the following signs, you need to consider the possibility of ICD.

  • Aggression
  • Theft
  • Cheating
  • Playing with fire

Physical Symptoms

In some cases, a parent may not notice any behavioral changes. However, there are also physical symptoms to look for such as,

  • Burns on the skin.
  • Injuries that are more or less constant. In this, you notice that even before the previous injury heals, there is always a fresh one to attend to.

Cognitive Symptoms

Other signs to look for are,

  • The child is frequently agitated/irritated.
  • The child is impatient.
  • The child lacks concentration.
  • The child becomes obsessive.

Psychosocial Symptoms

These include:

  • Lack of a social life.
  • The child becomes very emotional, even under seemingly minor circumstances.

Causes of Impulse Control Disorders

The causes of Impulse Control Disorders in children may include a number of contributing factors, such as,

Genetic or Neurological Factors

According to research, children who have family members who have suffered from Impulse Control Disorders and mental health disorders are more likely to show symptoms of these disorders.

Physical Factors

Sometimes physical factors can cause the disorder due to the possibility of an imbalance in the functioning of brain neurons that are responsible for emotions, memories and planning.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors will depend on where the child has been raised. This is not exactly about the place but the child’s surrounding environment. For example, and environment where the people around the child act violently, use abusive language, fight openly and react negatively, the child is more likely to develop ICDs. To the child, this behavior is normal and he or she oftentimes cannot resist acting in the same manner.

When looking at the causes, there are also some risk factors that drag along with them. Children who are exposed to the above causes are at risk both in the short-term and in the long-term. The risk factors attached to ICDs include:

  • Being exposed to violence at a young age.

Effects of ICDs

  • The effects of ICDs can be both physical and emotional and often include the following,
  • The child finds it difficult to develop, build or maintain any kind of relationship.
  • Academically, the child’s progress is not present.
  • Physical effects where the child hurts himself and others in the process.
  • A depreciating sense of self-esteem.

When to Call a Doctor

Parents who have children with impulse control disorders need to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. It is therefore important to visit the doctor once any of the signs and symptoms above are observed. After an analysis, the doctor will refer you to a psychologist, therapist or a psychiatrist. The child, the parents, and those close to the child will be interviewed before any treatment or final diagnosis is provided. This is to ensure that the disorder is actually an ICD and not any other psychological disorder such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or conduct disorder.

The act of bullying may not be because your child is actually out to bully his fellow playmates. Then again, it may be difficult to diagnose these disorders as they come with symptoms similar to a number of other psychological disorders. By eliminating other psychological disorders, professionals can then diagnose the assurance of one of the ICDs. Doctors will use the diagnostic and statistical manual (dsm), also known as conduct disorder dsm or dsm code, to help diagnose any mental disorders.

Impulse Control Disorder Treatment

The doctor will recommend treatment to help your child regain a normal lifestyle before the situation gets out of control. Both long term and short-term remedies are provided. For example, your child may receive medication accompanied by psychotherapy and behavior modification therapy. Antidepressants may be included in cases where one of the underlying causes is depression.

In the long-term, the child will need counseling and psychotherapy. Therapy is included as part of the treatment to help with impulse control. Impulse control will help cut down on bulling as the child is able to make the right decisions, including deciding to not hurt other children. They will also be able to control their anger, as well as control their stress levels.

You may choose whether to have therapy sessions at the hospital or at home. The doctor will also help you to make the right choice depending on the child’s severity of the disorder. As your child goes through therapy, ensure that you as a parent take part in most of the sessions. This will help you to understand better how to handle the child and cases of ICDs in the absence of the therapist.


It is unfortunate that these disorders cannot easily be prevented, especially in children. Though you cannot prevent it, you can definitely treat the disorder appropriately.


Looking at the causes of the disorders, you notice that you cannot prevent their occurrence. The best route to take would be to look at your child’s behavior and seek treatment as soon as possible. The earlier the recognition, the better it is for your child in the long-term. Otherwise, you will be making school transfers from too many suspensions or even an expulsion from their previous school. Other parents do not like it when their children are constantly being bullied.

If suffering from an Impulse Disorder, your child will repeat bullying activities, as they cannot control their actions at the given moment. However, you can also encourage impulse control in an attempt to prevent bullying. The following are ways you can help your child with impulse control.

Help your child to draw a line between feelings and actions.

Help your child to understand that it is okay to be sad or even mad but that it is not okay to let it out through acts of violence such as bullying. Help them to realize ways of letting these feelings out positively such as through talking to you or their teacher, participating in their favorite activities etc.

Anger Management

Your child needs to understand that they can control their anger. All they need do is practice and in no time, controlling their anger will be simple. By identifying the things that make him angry, you can help him divert that anger toward other things rather than toward bullying other children. Encouraging your child to play sports is a good example.

Lead by Example

Children learn a lot through observation. Ensure that they in an environment that will not cause ICDs. Domestic quarrels should not be displayed in front of children, as they are likely to model this behavior.

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