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Impulsivity and Compulsivity

Edited by John M. Oldham, M.D., M.S., Eric Hollander, M.D., and Andrew E. Skodol, M.D.

  • ISBN 978-0-88048-676-7
  • Item #8676

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Traditionally, impulsive and compulsive behaviors have been categorized as fundamentally distinct. However, patients often exhibit both of these behaviors. This common comorbidity has sparked renewed interest in the factors contributing to the disorders in which these behaviors are prominent. Impulsivity and Compulsivity applies a provocative spectrum model to this psychopathology. The spectrum model is consistent with a dimensional model for psychopathology and considers the dynamic interaction of biopsychosocial forces in the development of impulsive and compulsive disorders.

In this important work on impulsive/compulsive psychopathology, leading researchers and clinicians share their expertise on the phenomenological, biological, psychodynamic, and treatment aspects of these disorders. Differential diagnosis, comorbidity of the impulsive-compulsive spectrum of disorders, and assessment by the seven-factor model of temperament and character are discussed. Chapters are also dedicated to the antianxiety function of impulsivity and compulsivity, defense mechanisms in impulsive disorders versus obsessive-compulsive disorders, and the unique aspects of psychotherapy with impulsive and compulsive patients.

Clinical researchers and clinicians will be enlightened by this exceptional work. The information provided is supplemented with clinical vignettes, and the final chapter provides a synthetic summary that offers a unified, dynamic approach to impulsive and compulsive behavior.


  • Phenomenology, differential diagnosis, and comorbidity of the impulsive-compulsive spectrum of disorders. Borderline personality disorder: impulsive and compulsive features. Assessment of the impulsive-compulsive spectrum of behavior by the seven-factor model of temperament and character. Cognitive science models of compulsivity and impulsivity. Biology and pharmacological treatment of impulse-control disorders. Psychobiology and psychopharmacology of compulsive spectrum disorders. Antianxiety function of impulsivity and compulsivity. Defense mechanisms in impulsive versus obsessive-compulsive disorders. Psychotherapy with impulsive and compulsive patients. Relationship between impulsivity and compulsivity: a synthesis. Index.

About the Authors

John M. Oldham, M.D. is Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Chief Medical Officer of the New York State Office of Mental Health. He is also Professor and Associate Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Training and Supervising Psychoanalyst at Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.

Eric Hollander, M.D., is Professor of Psychiatry, Director of Clinical Psychopharmacology, Clinical Director of the Seaver Autism Research Center, and Director of the Compulsive, Impulsive and Anxiety Disorders Program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York. Dr. Hollander was previously Director of the OCD Biological Studies Program at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Andrew E. Skodol, M.D., is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Director of the Unit for Personality Studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He is currently president of the Association for Research on Personality Disorders and Chairman of the New Research Subcommittee of the APA Scientific Program Committee.

They summarize in these ten chapters an impressive body of clinical research and treatment data backed up with extensive references that richly explore the disorders of impulsive and compulsive thought and behavior and those symptoms that have characteristics of both.—American Journal of Psychotherapy

The editors and contributors to this thought-provoking volume are to be congratulated for assembling a diverse body of work ranging from cognitive science to psychopharmacology and relating it to the dimensions of impulsive and compulsive behavior.—American Journal of Psychiatry

[The] editorial teamwork for this spectrum of disorders provides a comprehensive and enlightening understanding for what almost all of us in psychiatry deal with daily. . . The reader's responsibility in an outstanding work such as this is to actively integrate the entire material rather than turning only to the segment matching a favorite and familiar perspective or theory.—Psychiatric Times

This book foreshadows an exciting new era wherein underlying dimensions of personality will be used to reorganize the diagnostic system. The diverse areas of expertise represented by this book's authors ensure that readers will find Impulsivity and Compulsivity refreshing, revealing, and rewarding.—John G. Gunderson, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Director, Psychosocial and Personality Research, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts

What a wonderfully creative and comprehensive contribution to our understanding of the difficulties people have in exerting just the right amount of control—not too little, but not too much—over their behavior. This book functions from a theoretical perspective and is very helpful clinically.—Allen Frances, M.D., Professor and Chairman, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina

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