The Compulsive-Impulsive Spectrum and Behavioral Addictions

Dan J. Stein and Brian A. Harvey

in The Oxford Handbook of Impulse Control Disorders

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195389715
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Compulsive-Impulsive Spectrum and Behavioral Addictions


Several models of psychopathology place constructs of compulsivity and impulsivity in diametric opposition. There are, however, a number of other models for conceptualizing the relationship between compulsive and impulsive psychopathology. Here we discuss some of the symptomatic overlap and distinctions between compulsive and impulsive disorders (addressing also the notion of behavioral addiction), review some of the underlying psychobiological mechanisms that may account for these overlaps and distinctions, and briefly consider the implications of this phenomenological and psychobiological work for management. Understanding the overlaps and distinctions between the compulsive and impulsive disorders may be useful for both research and clinical purposes. A range of other approaches to impulsivity may, however, also be useful. Both compulsivity and impulsivity are multidimensional constructs; further work is needed to delineate fully the nature of these dimensions and their underlying psychobiology.

Keywords: compulsivity; impulsivity; behavioral addiction; obsessive-compulsive disorder; impulse control disorders

Article.  6176 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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