Effective Treatment for Teenage Impulse Control Disorder

This Article Will Discuss:

  • An understanding of Teen impulse control disorders, types, and causes
  • The effective treatment ways for Teen impulse control disorders
  • The complementary and alternative treatment ways for impulse control disorders

Adolescence is a time of discovery, growth, and navigating the complexities of the world. For some teenagers, however, impulse control disorders can pose significant challenges, affecting their ability to regulate their behaviors and make sound decisions. These disorders, which include conditions like oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), and intermittent explosive disorder (IED), can have a profound impact on a teenager’s daily life, relationships, and overall well-being. Fortunately, with the right treatment approach, teenagers with impulse control disorders can learn to manage their symptoms, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and find a path towards balance and empowerment. This blog will explore effective treatment strategies to help teenagers regain control over their impulses, foster positive change, and pave the way for a brighter future.

Teenage Impulse Control Disorder

It is normal to have the desire to do something; however, some people cannot control or resist their desire to do certain things. Impulse control disorders refer to conditions that subject a person to irresistible impulses. Such conditions could be an array of reactions, such as the dire urge to burn something, hit something, or steal something (kleptomania). Impulse control disorders are most likely associated with negative impacts on a person. However, once identified, impulse control disorders can be managed through proper treatment.

Types of Impulse Control Disorders in Teens

Various people have associated irresistible impulses to impulse control disorders. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health (DSM-5) provides that five formal disorders constitute impulse control disorders.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

This is a common childhood impulse control disorder. Children with ODD struggle to regulate or control their behaviors and emotions. This condition is more prevalent in preadolescent males than females. It is estimated that about 2% to 11% of children in the United States have Oppositional Defiant Disorder. It is stated that children may start experiencing the symptoms of ODD between the ages of 5 to 10, although the symptoms may disappear with progression in age.

The symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder include;

  • Irritation and defiant behavior
  • Disagreeable and disruptive behavior

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

This condition is more prevalent among teenagers or during late childhood years. This condition is mostly associated with aggression and anger relatively disproportionate to the trigger. In most cases, the victim relates to the cause, not the people around them.

The condition has key symptoms such as;

  • Quick to frustration
  • Good behavior outside the explosive outbursts
  • Outbursts( physical and verbal) that often lead to physical damage


Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder associated with the dire urge to grab something, taking into possession what does not belong to them. Although common in teens, this condition can also occur at any age. Kleptomania is more prevalent in females than in males. The symptoms of this condition include;

  • A compulsive feeling to steal materials that are not needed or with no value.
  • Feelings of guilt followed by relief after teenage stealing.


This is a condition where the individual is fascinated by fire and matters incidental to fire. Such persons often have the compulsion to set things on fire. Although present in adults, pyromania is more common in teenagers and more prevalent in males than in females.

The common symptoms of pyromania are;

  • A compulsive feeling to set things on fire
  • A feeling of tension before setting the fire

Conduct Disorder

Conduct Disorder (CD) is an impulse control disorder that develops as early as childhood, although it also develops during adolescence among teenagers. It is stated that people suffering from Conduct Disorder are more likely to attract Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), developmental disorders, and mood disorders.

The signs and symptoms of Conduct Disorder include;

  • Destruction of property
  • Display of manipulative traits
  • Criminal activity
  • Consistent lying

Causes of Impulse Control Disorder in Teens

The existing research does not provide certainty about the causes of impulse control disorder in teens or adults. However, it is believed that genetic and environmental factors are both causes of impulse control disorder. Genetic factors, such as the mutations associated with the production of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters associated with cognition and mood, have been suggested to contribute significantly to impulse control disorders. Some researchers have argued that children suffering from Oppositional Defiant Disorder have parents with mood disorders. For instance, it is suggested that individuals with Conduct Disorders have parents suffering from ADHD, personality disorder, and schizophrenia.

It is also believed that environmental factors may also cause or contribute to impulse control disorders. For instance, it is suggested that coming from an abusive or neglectful environment, a family with low socioeconomic status, friends with deviant or criminal activities, a community with consistent violence, and a lack of a home or school structure most likely cause impulse control disorder.

Psychological factors may also contribute significantly to impulse control disorder. Traumatic experiences from childhood, parenting style, and childhood friends significantly impact the growth and development of a child and may be agents of impulse control disorders during adolescence.

Diagnosis and Assessment

Impulsivity is associated with mental health conditions and cannot be identified through a single test. During diagnosis and assessment, the doctor performs a psychological exam to determine whether the signs and symptoms experienced are consistent with the criteria provided in the DSM-5. During the psychological evaluation, the doctor will ask the patient about the signs and symptoms experienced, their nature, duration, and severity. In other instances, the doctor will ask the people closely related to the patient about the signs and symptoms.

In addition to a psychological assessment, the doctor may also carry out a physical examination and blood tests. The rationale behind such an examination is to rule out medical conditions that may contribute to the signs and symptoms experienced by the patient.

Evidence-Based Treatments

Residential Treatment

Key Healthcare has structured a long-term residential treatment program for teens between 13 and 17 years old. The program accepts all adolescents from the US who will live in the facility in Malibu, California, for 30-45 days. The facility exhibits high levels of care since it has only six beds meaning that it accommodates six teens at a time. The teens going through this program receive 24/7 care and support.

How Does The Residential Program Work?

Once a teen is admitted to the program, assessment and diagnosis are done, which involves looking into the symptoms, behaviors, and history of the teen to diagnose a specific impulse control disorder and determine the appropriate treatment plan. Once identified, various plans may be used to help the teen.

To begin with, the program utilizes teen individual therapy in which the teen works collaboratively with the therapist to identify the teen`s triggers, underlying impulsive emotions, and psychological problems and establish coping mechanisms together. There is also teen group therapy, whereby the teens work together with the help of a therapist or counselor. In group therapy, teens support each other by learning from each other, sharing their experiences, and improving their interpersonal skills.

The program also employs teen family therapy which aims at helping the teen improve their relationships, address family dynamics, and improve their communication to eliminate the teen`s negative behaviors.

In addition to the therapy sessions, teens are also taught education and life skills such as mindfulness to help them improve academically and better their lives in general. There are also recreational activities ranging from physical activities, teen art therapy, and outdoor activities, all of which help the teen develop self-esteem, express themselves appropriately, and develop interpersonal relationships.

Finally, should there be a need, medication may be prescribed to help the teen manage their impulsivity.

Psychotherapeutic Treatments

Several types of therapy may also be used in residential treatment to manage impulse control disorder. Such therapy includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy for teens is a type of psychotherapy that helps adolescents change their behaviors. It is used in the treatment of various teen mental health conditions. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective intervention for treating impulse control disorders. The cognitive behavioral techniques used in cognitive behavioral therapy include relaxation training, aversion therapy, systematic desensitization, imaginal desensitization, covert sensitization, and other alternative sources of satisfaction.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is grounded on the idea that feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are all connected; therefore, if one can change their thoughts, they can change their behavior.

Teen CBT is structured, making it better than the other types of therapy. In CBT, the therapist and patient work together during each session to set specific goals and charter a way toward their fulfillment. CBT can be done in group or individual sessions for 12 to 20 weeks. Some common CBT teen activities include journaling, cognitive restructuring, relaxation and stress management, behavioral experiments, and problem-solving.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Teen dialectical behavior therapy focuses on enabling teens to build skills that reduce impulsive behaviors and improve their ability to think and reflect before doing something. By acquiring such skills, a teen can deal with intense emotions and face challenging situations without confrontation.

A significant skill in DBT is mindfulness; it encourages the teen to stay in the moment and remain aware of their surroundings and actions, enabling them to consider their actions’ consequences before they do them. Practicing mindfulness enables teens to make rational decisions concerning their surroundings and responses to events.

Key Healthcare offers three main components of Teen DBT. The first is individual therapy sessions, where the teen works with the therapist to design treatment goals to enable the teen to process, manage stress, and improve their relationships. We also offer group skills training where the teen learns and practices specific DBT skills with other teens involved in the treatment program. This enables teens to develop and improve interpersonal relationships as they learn from their peers. Finally, Key Healthcare offers Phone coaching to support and guide the teen whenever needed. This enables the teen to practice the skills learned during DBT.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is a basic skill and training used in adolescent psychiatry. It emphasizes how past experiences impact present behaviors and involves exploring transference. Psychodynamic therapy is used to treat adolescent behavioral disorders, including impulse control disorders. It deals with psychological functioning beyond diagnostic categories facilitating optimal development and adaptive resilience against trauma and stressors.

Pharmacological Treatments

Medication is another effective way of managing and treating teen impulse control disorder. Medication is done by introducing a new medication or changing the current medication. Discussing your previous and current medication with your doctor before taking or changing medication purposely to treat impulse control disorder is important. Examples of medication recommended for treating impulse control disorder include glutamatergic agents, lithium, atypical antipsychotics, SNRIs, SSRIs, and opioid antagonists.

Alternative Treatment Options For Teenage Impulse Control Disorder

Teen yoga therapy is another effective treatment for teen impulse control disorder. Yoga helps teens learn how to cope with stress and teen anxiety properly and healthily. Essentially yoga therapy enables the teen to learn meditation and mindfulness, helps focus the mind, and improves muscle control. It also involves relaxation and breathing exercises.

Art therapy for teens provides a platform for teens to express themselves through communication, processing emotions, and engaging in self-reflection. Art therapy is essential for teens struggling with impulse control disorders and verbal communication.

Equine-assisted therapy is another effective alternative to teenage impulse control disorder treatment. It is a form of experiential therapy that involves a counselor working with the client and horses to establish positive change. It specifically helps treat conduct disorder, depression, anxiety, teen with ADHD, and other health difficulties. It equips the patient to recognize maladaptive behaviors, identify negative emotions, and enhance self-awareness.

Lifestyle Changes and Self-Help Strategies

Teens with the ability to control their impulses have more confidence, make better choices, are more independent, and have the ability to develop broader vocabularies. A change in lifestyle and maximum utilization of self-help strategies enables the teen to master the control of their impulses. Parents can help teenagers with a change of lifestyle by practicing and rehearsing alternative behaviors, providing visual reminders, evaluating and teaching other executive functioning skills, and promoting sleep to help manage and prevent impulse control disorders.

Coping Skills and Relapse Prevention

A teenager may employ the following techniques to manage impulsive behaviors;

  • Practice self-control
  • Mindfulness
  • Working through distractions
  • Model good examples

By identifying their triggers, utilizing techniques for managing impulsive behaviors, improving their interpersonal relationships, and practicing healthy living, they can prevent relapse and achieve long-term recovery.


Impulse control disorders are among the challenges teens face in the modern world. Although these conditions are incurable, they can be managed and treated in the ways discussed above in this article. Parents can significantly help their teens with impulse control disorders. They can begin by providing a healthy and safe, and open environment, helping teens set clear boundaries and specific goals, and avoiding physical punishment and ridicule to help their teens manage impulse control disorders.

Key Healthcare provides various effective treatment ways for teen impulse control disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are some self-help strategies for teenagers with impulse control disorder?

Teens may employ self-help strategies such as practicing mindfulness, developing coping mechanisms, identifying triggers, and seeking help from family and friends.

Can impulse control disorder in teenagers be cured?

Teen impulse control is incurable, although it can be managed through proper treatment.

How does family therapy help treat impulse control disorder in teenagers?

Family therapy helps by dealing with family dynamics, teaching coping mechanisms, and improving communication, to help treat impulse control disorders.

Is it safe for teenagers to take medications for impulse control disorder?

Medication for teen impulse control disorders is safe as long as they are administered with the proper prescription.

What complementary and alternative treatments are available for impulse control disorder in teenagers?

Relaxation techniques, physical activity, and cognitive-behavioral therapy for teens are some examples of complementary and alternative treatments for impulse control disorders.