Impulsivity and Affective Regulation

Alan C. Swann

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

Impulsivity and Affective Regulation


Impulsivity and affect share important neurobehavioral mechanisms. Impulsivity is a pattern of responses to stimuli without the ability to conform the responses to their context, usually representing either inability to adequately evaluate a stimulus before responding to it or inability to delay the response for a reward. Mechanisms underlying impulsivity overlap substantially with constructs like arousal, attention, motivation, and reward, which are also prominent in regulation of affect. Both impulsivity and affect share relationships with regulation of monoaminergic and amino acid transmitter function. For example, activity of the locus coeruleus is sensitive to unexpected, intense, noxious, or stress-related stimuli. Impulsivity and affective dysregulation are increased by exaggerated or poorly modulated responses in this system. The course of the illness interacts with context-dependent effects on behavior via behavioral sensitization. Repeated exposure to stressors, drugs of abuse, or endogenous norepinephrine release in affective episodes leads to behavioral sensitization with increased impulsivity, affective dysregulation, and substance use. Impulsivity predisposes to, and is increased by, behavioral sensitization. In this context, we discuss impulsivity in depressive, manic, anxious, and mixed states, including suicidal behavior and characteristics of the course of illness that are related to behavioral sensitization.

Keywords: affect; anxiety; arousal; bipolar disorder; depressive disorder; impulsive behavior; motivation; stress; psychological; recurrence

Article.  12503 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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