Dimensional Conceptualizations of Impulsivity

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Impulsivity is a transdiagnostic dimension of crucial importance to understanding psychopathology, as it is highly relevant to a wide array of maladaptive life outcomes including substance use, criminality, and other risky behaviors. There exist a variety of operationalizations of impulsivity across the literature distinct nomological networks. In fact, research suggests that “impulsivity” is a multifaceted construct comprised of at least 4 distinct traits that have unique pathways to maladaptive behaviors. Those traits are positive and negative urgency, sensation seeking, premeditation, and perseverance. Thus, it is crucial that any diagnostic system, or model of maladaptive traits, capture the nuances among these impulsigenic traits. The present study investigated the conceptualization of impulsigenic traits within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Alternative personality disorder model and an alternative trait model to determine how well they captured these variants. This study obtained questionnaire ratings and behavioral task data from 450 community-dwelling adults oversampled for a history of involvement in the legal and/or mental health systems. The results showed that although the DSM–5 trait model captures well a broad conceptualization of impulsivity, some lower-order facets lack specificity.

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