Successfully Managing Impulse Control and Eating Disorders

“Have you no self control?” People suffering from Eating Disorders have heard this question literally a thousand times from a concerned parent, spouse or friend.

Often times it is said after a binge on a box of cookies, a carton of ice cream or a box of donuts. The sad truth is “No. We don’t have self control.”

Like Alcoholism an Eating Disorder is a disease of the mind and Impulse Control Disorder goes hand in hand with Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating. An Impulse Control Disorder is defined as: A psychological disorders characterized by the repeated inability to refrain from performing a particular action that is harmful either to oneself or others.

Causes of Impulse Control disorder are thought to come from 4 possible areas.

1.) Traumatic Brain Injury – Particularly true when the damage has been done to the frontal cortex area. (Jentsch & Taylor,1999.)

2.) Substance Abuse – Research shows that those who abuse multiple substances show more impulsive behavior than those who abuse single substances. (O’Boyle & Baratt, 1993).

3.) Major Mental Disorders – Often associated with impulsivity while the individual is in a psychotic state. This is particularly true of Bipolar Disorder where the impulsive behavior is most often associated with the manic phase.

4.) Personality Disorders – Primarily borderline, anti-social, narcissistic, and histrionic. Impulsivity in the form of risk-tasking behaviors, sexual promiscuity, gestures and threats of self-harm and other attention-seeking behaviors.

“So what is the treatment for someone with Impulse Control Disorder AND an Eating Disorder?” I’m so glad you asked! … A program that successfully combats eating disorders should approach from 3 angles: Mental, Physical and Spiritual. Here is how we do it.

1.) MENTAL – Therapy – We teach our clients the life long tool of how to be their own therapist. Our therapist don’t preach they challenge the clients ….“Ask yourself, what am I feeling right now before I do this impulsive act? Now, play it through…what am I going to do, how am I going to do it and how will I feel afterward?” Through therapy we give clients tools to take care of themselves and eventually heal.

2.) PHYSICAL – Medication – An appointment should be quickly set up with a trusted and outstanding psychiatrist who assesses the client and prescribes medication if needed.

3.) SPIRITUAL – Supportive Living Environment –When it comes to Eating
Disorders and Impulse Control Disorder, recovery is a life long process. It
starts with the individual being held accountable for their actions by staff. Cupboards should not be locked and clients should be allowed to prepare their own food with staff present. The only job of the client is to be honest, to ask for support when their impulses feel out of control and to speak up when their ED (Eating Disorder) is chattering eating disordered thoughts to them. Together staff and client can battle this disease together.