The more I am around teens the more I realize how impulsive their behaviors can be; I’ve got to have it now, is a common impulsive behavior and is somewhat acceptable. But what happens when the adolescent doesn’t get what they want NOW and strikes out in anger to relieve the stress? They don’t get what they want and begin stealing, having risky sex or driving recklessly. These behaviors are impulsive behaviors and in teens can lead to life changing events.
For teens there can be early-onset versus late-onset impulse control, early onset occurs around ages 12-14 and may be associated with lack of inhibition control in the brain. Without proper diagnosis of impulse control, can lead to an adult with complications since patterns and behaviors are setting in at a young age. If at age 15-16 lack of impulse control suddenly appears, this is thought to be late onset and usually will correct itself around ages 18-19. Late onset impulse control is usually due to peer pressure. It is important to define where your teen falls on this spectrum to determine the type of care or supervision that may be needed.
There is scientific information around teen brain development and impulsivity, since the frontal lobe does not develop fully until age 25 there is a disconnect between behaviors and judgment. Poor judgments are controlled by the frontal lobe and are usually most prevalent when teens are feeling peer pressure, emotions are high and lifes conditions are overwhelming. It is said that “the teenage brain is a better accelerator than brake”. I have always wondered how our law makers came to the conclusion that adolescents are adults at age 18? Most teens do not consider lifes consequences at this age and so much is still at stake.
Impulse control disorder is a loss of control and if it is allowed to persist can develop into patterns that later lead to, addictive behaviors such as substance abuse and sexual disorders. Impulse control disorders become a learned behavior for relieving stress and new coping skills must be developed. Impulse Control Disorders are divided into diagnoses, these are a few that relate to teen behaviors:
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder – an example would be destruction of property or assaults on others. We all have met people when under stress are prone to aggressive outbursts.
- Kleptomania – compulsive stealing of items that are not needed. There is usually a feeling of tension before stealing and then pleasure at the time of theft.
- Pyromania – setting of fires. Once again involves relief and gratification from the experience.
- Trichotillomania – pulling ones hair out on any part of the body. Again a sense of relief when pulling out the hair.
Help is available for those suffering with this disorder, for adolescents counseling may be useful to discover deeper emotional issues that may have led to the disorder. Family Therapy may be necessary along with medication to regulate parts of the brain that affect impulsive behaviors. Most important get help from a professional that is qualified to treat the problem and can look beyond the symptoms.
Defiance and Impulse Control: Late-Onset Versus Early-Onset
Teens’ Brains Key To Their Impulsiveness
Impulse Control Disorders
Brain Maturity May Lag In Kids With ADHD