Comparing Manic Episodes and Impulse Control Disorder

Comparing manic episodes and impulse control disorder made me see both of these disorders in a new light, as I think it would for just about anyone researching them.  When I originally thought of manic episodes I thought of a person displaying signs that resembled major depression disorder, but it turns out manic episodes are completely the opposite.

A manic episode typically lasts for at least one week and could last up to a few months and can have a variety of symptoms, but in order to actually be diagnosed at least three symptoms have to be present at the same time.  Symptoms can include an inflated self-esteem or behavior that is known as grandiosity either of which is when a person feels they are incredibly important in some way that others do not see.  A decreased need for sleep can be evident; the person will feel rested after a very minimal amount of sleep.  A person could become more talkative than what they normally are and they could experience a feeling of thoughts racing through their head.  When a person experiences a manic episode their attention can be drawn away from things they would normally consider important to things that would be considered minute or unimportant, or the person could become overly involved in activities that are either work related or activities that could be considered pleasurable, but will eventually end in a painful lesson.

Whichever of the symptoms the patient experiences, they will be severe enough to cause a disruption in their life and they won’t be due to substance use or a medical treatment.  Generally a person will begin to experience manic episodes before they turn 25, but there is no set age group that manic episodes occur.  They can begin any time throughout puberty or sometime during early adulthood.

Impulse control disorder is completely different in that patients who have been diagnosed with this disorder have an uncontrollable desire to behave in a dangerous way.  The various categories listed in impulse control disorder are trichotillomania, intermittent explosive disorder, pathological, gambling, kleptomania, pyromania and not otherwise specified.  There are many different behaviors that people with this disorder can display, these are listed within these categories.  Some of the addictive behaviors people suffer from are substance addiction, compulsive gambling, compulsive hair pulling, stealing, setting fires and explosive rage.  In fact one definition of impulse control disorder is “the failure to resist an impulse act or behavior that may be harmful to self or others.”  (

When a person starts to feel the impulse to act on one of these behaviors they can feel pressure building and sometimes the patient will feel sexual arousal leading up to actually committing the addictive behavior.  While the patient is in the middle of the behavior they usually feel some sort of gratification or release which will make them feel better, but afterward the patient will often feel remorse and culpability for acting on the impulse.

The cause of impulse control disorder is unknown, but it has been speculated that various factors could play a role.  Things like biological or physical factors, emotional or psychological as well as cultural or societal factors.  One suggestion is that a traumatic brain injury could cause a person to begin acting impulsively.  Another behavior that is looked at is substance abuse because it can be related to impulse control disorder although it is not seen in every single patient; it is seen in most of them.

It seems likely that women have more of a tendency to be diagnosed with impulse control disorders such as pyromania and intermittent explosive disorder.  These disorders are actually considered to be not as aggressive as most other personality disorders and there is some evidence that shows that there is a connection between addiction and mood disorders and people who have relatives with control disorders.  There is also some research that suggests a connection between violent impulsive behaviors and some seizure disorders as well as a connection to some major mental disorders.

It is kind of amazing how different these two disorders can be, manic episodes are generally a euphoric disorder, where the person is full of energy and can’t stop doing things no matter how hard they try and impulse control disorder can be any one of a list of disorders, usually they are not disorders that give a person a lot of energy, but instead can cause a person to act in a dangerous manner that can actually cause themselves or other people harm.




Netherton, S.D., Holmes, D., Walker, C.E. (1999). Child and Adolescent Psychological Disorders.

New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Blaney, P.H., Millon, T. (2009). Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology.

New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

(Retrieved 2009, November 16). Impulse Control Disorders.

(Retrieved 2009, November 16). Manic Episode Symptoms.

(Retrieved 2009, November 16). Manic Episode.

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