eli5: Impulsive Vs Compulsive

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What is the difference between these two? Like for example, overeating can be one or the other right?

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Impulsive is doing what ever pops into your mind in the moment. Definition: acting or done without forethought.

Compulsive is doing what your mind says to do even if you do not want to do it. Definition: resulting from or relating to an irresistible urge, especially one that is against one’s conscious wishes.

Think of Obsessives Compulsive Disorder (OCD), they don’t really want to wash their hands 10 times in a row and say “tick tock the clock says wash” every time but they are compelled by their brain to do so (made up OCD scenario). Another example would be Tourette Syndrome, they definitely don’t want to yell “I’m a bomb” in an airport but they might have no choice.

Impulsive is a reaction to something that happens in that moment – an “impulse”.

Compulsive is when you cannot stop doing something.

In the context of eating:

* Impulsive eating is when you smell popcorn, you feel a craving for popcorn, so you make popcorn and eat it. You eat it because you just felt like it.
* Compulsive eating is when you cannot stop eating popcorn. You literally scoop buckets of it into your mouth until you get sick.

Overeating is more commonly associated with compulsive behaviours. Impulsive eating, however, is factor in undesired weight gain. Both are expressed as having little to no “control” over eating habits, but from different ends of the cycle: one hinges on your inability to say “no” to eating something, the other prevents you from saying “enough”.