Impulse Control & Parkinson’s Disease

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Parkinsons Causes Impulse Control Disorders

If you provide care for an aging parent or loved one with Parkinson’s, you’re likely familiar with many of the condition’s symptoms such as uncontrollable tremors, rigid muscles, slowed movement and speech changes, but are you familiar with the behavioral side effects?

As a trusted provider of Lehigh Valley Parkinson’s care, we wanted to share some information about a common behavioral change that is experienced by many seniors with Parkinson’s, impulse control disorder (ICD). ICD isn’t a symptom that will affect everybody with PD, but it can, however, present new challenges for caregivers and loved ones. Knowing more about ICD and how it could impact your loved one’s day-to-day activities can help you better prepare for their future care and overall quality of life.

Suspected Causes of ICD in Parkinson’s Patients

Impulse control disorder in PD patients has been linked to medications, such as pramipexole and ropinorole, that are often prescribed to increase dopamine function. Researchers believe that dopaminergic drugs may inadvertently cause an imbalance with emotional responses that prevents rational thoughts from prevailing.

Parkinson’s also affects an area of the brain that’s responsible for pleasure and pain responses, possibly explaining why some patients develop impulse control problems. Impulse control behaviors affecting Parkinson’s patients may include:

  • Compulsive gambling
  • Overeating
  • Addictions to shopping
  • Hyper-sexual behaviors
  • Substance abuse problems


In severe cases, the impulse control behaviors can lead to a new set of problems in addition to the Parkinson’s disease itself, although stopping or reducing dopamine medications often proves to be helpful. Treatment options tend to be fairly diverse depending on the specific ICD affecting a patient, with common recommendations including:

  • Addiction treatment (especially if behaviors have gone unnoticed for a while)
  • Psychiatry (in cases where a change in medication proves ineffectual)
  • Opting for treatments with levodopa (L-DOPA) or similar drugs rather than dopamine agonists

Patients should be encouraged to self-report new or more intense impulses during each doctor’s visit since some people may feel ashamed and try to hide such behaviors. Family members and in-home caregivers are also encouraged to be as proactive as possible by working with patients to identify ICD as soon as possible so that some type of treatment can be considered.

Finding Care for Your Loved One

If you have an aging parent or loved one who is living with Parkinson’s, find out how to provide them with the quality care they need and deserve by contacting Home Care Assistance of the Lehigh Valley today. We provide home care Lehigh Valley families trust, with highly trained Parkinson’s caregivers, flexible hourly and live-in care schedules and no long-term contracts. Request a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Care Manager today by calling 484-350-3874. We’re here to help 24/7.


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