Psychiatric aspects of impulsivity

F. G. Moeller, E. S. Barratt, D. M. Dougherty, J. M. Schmitz, A. C. Swann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1750 Scopus citations


Objective: The authors discuss the relationship of impulsivity to psychiatric disorders and present selected hypotheses regarding the reasons for these relationships. Method: Previous research has shown significantly higher levels of impulsivity among patients with conduct disorder, personality disorders, substance use disorders, and bipolar disorder, compared to other psychiatric patients or healthy comparison subjects. A literature review of the theoretical bases of the relationship between these disorders and impulsivity is presented. Measurements of impulsivity and treatment options are discussed in relation to the physiology of impulsivity and the disorders in which it is a prominent feature. Results: Impulsivity, as defined on the basis of a biopsychosocial approach, is a key feature of several psychiatric disorders. Behavioral and pharmacological interventions that are effective for treating impulsivity should be incorporated into treatment plans for these disorders. Conclusions: The high comorbidity of impulsivity and selected psychiatric disorders, including personality disorders, substance use disorders, and bipolar disorder, is in a large part related to the association between impulsivity and the biological substrates of these disorders. Before treatment studies on impulsivity can move forward, measures of impulsivity that capture the core aspects of this behavior need to be refined and tested on the basis of an ideologically neutral model of impulsivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1783-1793
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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