Are you developing an impulse phobia?

Sometimes you are afraid of yourself, of others or of yourself. Dangerous ideas and thoughts run around in your head. At times you feel as if you are going crazy. Why am I imagining or thinking this? Murder, suicide, aggression, violence… so many thoughts that can cross your mind, without you being able to control them. You have never acted on them but these thoughts haunt you… Presentation of the impulse phobia.

serrer le poing - phobie d'impulsion

1. What is Impulse Phobia?

First of all, impulse phobia is NOT A PHOBIA. In fact, it is part of the OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) family. It is characterised by the fear of committing dangerous, serious, aggressive acts for others or for oneself. You are afraid of completely losing control of yourself and doing certain things out of madness. 

Thus, in the impulse phobia, we find 3 themes: 

  • sexual (homosexual, paedophilia)
  • the religious theme 
  • the theme of aggression towards others or towards oneself.

This obsessive fear can cause you to isolate yourself from your loved ones and avoid certain situations that are risky for you. These thoughts, disaster scenarios, are obsessive and run in a loop in your head when you are in certain situations.

First of all, it is important to realise that these fears, these thoughts, are not a sign of an act, but a sign of obsessive thoughts and therefore of OCD. 

They can be found in different contexts. This type of thought can be found in other specific phobias. For example, a person who is afraid of heights will not dare to go near the edge, because various obsessive thoughts come up, such as the desire to jump into the void. 

It can also be found in mothers who are afraid of killing their children for example. 

If you suffer from impulse phobia, you may feel like you are going crazy… with an intense fear of becoming a psychopath….

These worst-case scenarios can become so prominent, that you will start avoiding many situations to avoid the risk of losing control.

2. What are the symptoms of Impulse Phobia?

In the impulse phobia we will find 3 main categories: 

  • fear of harming oneself, i.e. fear of suicide
  • the fear of deliberately harming others in a fit of madness 
  • the fear of unintentionally harming others, i.e. inadvertently

When we suffer from impulse phobia, we are invaded by various intrusive thoughts. These are self-imposed thoughts, and like all thoughts, they cannot be controlled. In the case of impulse phobia, this type of thought often revolves around aggressive or sexual acts, on loved ones, vulnerable people or on oneself. 

By having this type of thought, people can start to believe that they will one day carry out an act. However, in the context of this OCD, there is never an act or a desire to act. There are “only” these thoughts. 

Thus, in the constant fear of losing control, you will be in a state of constant vigilance towards yourself, all the more so in situations where these thoughts take on greater importance. 

Are you ashamed and afraid to talk about it? This is unfortunately often the case for people who suffer from impulse phobias. Indeed, these are fears that are shameful, even sordid, and it is very difficult to confide in someone about this kind of thing. 

If you suffer from an impulse phobia, perhaps you use one of these rituals/strategies: 

  • Ruminations“: ruminations are mental strategies used to mentally check that you have not done anything bad to yourself or others. 
  • Checks“: regularly checking one’s actions to see if one has committed crimes. These checks are also called compulsions
  • Avoidance strategies: often one of the most used strategies, it consists in avoiding being confronted with situations/objects/people that can provoke this type of thoughts in you. 
  • Neutralization: consists in chasing away the thoughts and replacing them with other types of thoughts (e.g. thinking about a passion, doing other types of activities…)

One word can sum up this phobia: “Doubt“. People suffering from this disorder are in perpetual doubt. 

It is important to tell yourself that these are only thoughts and not acts. The fact that these thoughts will scare you proves that you will not act.

3. Why do I suffer from impulse control phobia, what causes it?

The causes are not yet well identified. 

What is certain is that there are important comorbidities with other types of disorders. Indeed, if you suffer from an impulse phobia, you may also suffer from mood disorders, depression or anxiety

Like many OCDs, phobias or anxieties, the onset may follow a traumatic event, a more stressful time for you in your personal or professional life. 

As mentioned earlier, it is not uncommon for women who have just given birth to have this type of phobia (e.g. fear of throwing or shaking their child, to the point of avoiding certain risky situations). This can be partly explained by the drop in hormones and fatigue. As we have just said, the more emotionally and physically fragile you are, the more likely you are to develop this type of OCD.

4. Can I lose control of myself completely?

No. No you will not lose control of yourself. The thoughts will remain thoughts. You don’t act on them. What makes you say that? Your morale. 

It is important to say to yourself that as soon as these thoughts disturb you, it is proof that you are aware of others and yourself. It is not because you have these types of thoughts that you are a bad person, quite the contrary. If your thoughts revolve mainly around a theme that is important to you, such as religion, you will find it all the more difficult to deal with these thoughts.

5. What can I do to cure myself of impulse control?

  • Drug treatment

There is no medication that will allow you to stop having this type of toc, however, antidepressants that act on serotonin will allow you to soothe the symptoms of impulse phobia. Thus, if the symptoms are too severe, the doctor may prescribe this type of medication. 

However, antidepressants alone are not enough. It is necessary to complete it with a therapy.

  • Therapy

Today, the most recommended therapy for impulse control is cognitive behavioural therapy

In this therapy you will learn to let go and relax. The therapy starts with relaxation. The aim is to reduce stress in general. Being anxious will tend to increase ruminations and negative thoughts. Thus, the reduction of anxiety on a daily basis will have a direct impact on the thoughts related to your impulse phobia. 

With your therapist you will work on ACCEPTANCE. Accept that you have these thoughts. No, they don’t make you a psychopath or a pedophile. We tend to believe, not quite rationally, that if we think something, it will happen. So we tend to fight that kind of thinking with all our might. The more you fight against a thought, the more space it will take up. Have you ever watched a film and wished someone dead? However, it would not occur to you to actually kill him. When you have this type of thought, no, you are not doing any harm! The aim is to learn to let your thoughts pass, without trying to analyse them. 

If, in addition to the negative thoughts you have, you have established avoidance behaviours (e.g. avoiding situations where you are at a height for fear of pushing someone or throwing yourself off), you will learn to gradually re-confront yourself with this type of environment. Thus, by confronting situations, your brain will be able to see that you never act on them and will therefore gradually switch off the anxiety response.