Cognitive-behavioral treatment for impulse control disorders

OBJECTIVES: This paper reviews the cognitive-behavioral treatment of kleptomania, compulsive buying, and pathological gambling. METHOD: A review of the published literature was conducted. RESULTS: Treatment research in all of these areas is limited. The cognitive-behavioral techniques used in the treatment of kleptomania encompass covert sensitization, imaginal desensitization, systematic desensitization, aversion therapy, relaxation training, and alternative sources of satisfaction. Regarding compulsive buying, no empirical support for treatment exists but common techniques examined were covert sensitization, exposure and response prevention, stimulus control, cognitive restructuring, and relapse prevention. Treatment of pathological gambling has been successful in both group and individual format using techniques such as aversive therapy, systematic desensitization, imaginal desensitization and multimodal behavior therapy (which have included in vivo exposure, stimulus control, and covert sensitization) along with cognitive techniques such as psychoeducation, cognitive-restructuring, and relapse prevention. CONCLUSIONS: There is a general consensus in the literature that cognitive-behavioral therapies offer an effective model for intervention for all these disorders. An individualized case formulation is presented with a case study example. Clinical practice guidelines are suggested for each disorder.

Impulse control disorders; Pathological gambling; Kleptomania; Compulsive shopping; Compulsive-behavioral treatment


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