Exact causes of impulse control disorders are unknown, but may be linked to genetics, family environment, and/or neurological factors. Some research suggests that impulse control disorders are linked to certain hormones, abnormal nerve impulses, and variations in brain chemistry and function. Children and adolescents who have had a severe head injury and who have epilepsy may be at greater risk of developing these disorders. In children and adolescents, impulse control disorders often occur along with other psychological conditions, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Impulse control disorders are diagnosed by psychological and psychiatric evaluations, interviews with family members, teachers, and caregivers, and observation and interviews with the child or adolescent. Diagnosis is based on clinical criteria defined in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision C (DSM-IV-TR).