Parkinson's drugs and impulsive and compulsive behaviour
Impulsive and compulsive behaviour is a possible side effect of
some Parkinson's drugs. Although only a relatively small number of
people experience this behaviour, it can have a significant impact
on the person affected and those around them.
Call our helpline on 0808 800 0303 for confidential support.
We deal with many enquiries related to side effects and adverse responses to drugs.
Tim Moore, Helpline Manager
Impulsive and compulsive behaviour can affect some people who
take dopamine agonists, but can also
affect people who take other Parkinson's drugs, in particular
If you're prescribed medication for Parkinson's, it's important that you and your
specialist or Parkinson's nurse discuss
the potential risk of impulsive and compulsive behaviour.
We have a tool to help with this:
This can also be used to monitor treatment over time.
What is impulsive and compulsive behaviour?
Impulsive behaviour is when a person can't
resist the temptation to carry out certain activities.
These are often activities that give an immediate reward, such
as shopping or gambling.
Compulsive behaviour is when a person has an
overwhelming drive or urge to act in a certain way, often
repetitively, to reduce the worry or tension that they get from
Some people continue to act in this way, even if they no longer
get any pleasure or reward.
In many cases, this behaviour is out of character and the person
may carry out these activities without any thoughts about
financial, social or legal consequences.
We have a dedicated
impulsive and compulsive behaviour discussion forum for people
to share their experiences and get support.
Impulsive and compulsive behaviour is also referred to sometimes
as impulse control disorder or ICD.
Types of impulsive and compulsive behaviour
This behaviour can be expressed in one or more of these
- addictive gambling
- obsessive shopping – a preoccupation with buying things
- binge eating
- hypersexuality – a focus on sexual feelings and thoughts
Punding, or compulsive hobbyism, is when someone does things
such as collecting, sorting or continually handling objects. It may
also be experienced as:
- a deep fascination with taking technical equipment apart
without always knowing how to put it back together again
- hoarding things
- pointless driving or walking
- talking in long monologues without any real content
Addiction to Parkinson's medication, called dopamine
dysregulation syndrome, is when a person takes more of a drug than
is needed to control their Parkinson's
For more information, read our free publications:
Coming soon - a series of videos about impulsive and compulsive
behaviour for people affeted by Parkinson's, consultants and
Are certain people more likely to experience impulsive and
If you're aware that you, or a friend or relative, may be experiencing impulsive and compulsive behaviour, don't live in denial.
I don't want anyone else to go through what I've been through.
Stephen, diagnosed in 2001
You are more likely to experience impulsive and compulsive
behaviour if you're:
- diagnosed with Parkinson's at a young age
- single and live alone
- a smoker
- someone with a personal or family history of addictive
If you have a history of 'risk-taking', such as gambling, drug
abuse or alcoholism, you may be more likely to develop dopamine
This is where you take more of your medication than is needed to
control your Parkinson's symptoms (known as dopamine dysregulation
It's important to remember that not everyone will experience
this side effect, so it shouldn't put you off taking your
You should work with your specialist or Parkinson's nurse to
find the most appropriate treatment option for you, and you should
monitor the effects of this treatment together.
Spotting the signs of impulsive and compulsive behaviour
Impulsive and compulsive behaviour is not normal.
If you think you or another person with Parkinson's may be
experiencing impulsive and compulsive behaviour, tell your GP,
specialist or Parkinson's nurse right away, so they can help.
You can also call our free and confidential helpline 0808 800 0303.
Someone experiencing impulsive or compulsive behaviour may not
realise they have a problem. So it's important that carers and
family members note any unusual behaviour and tell the appropriate
healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Some of this behaviour may be embarrassing and you may feel
uncomfortable talking to a healthcare professional about it. But
remember that they will have spoken to others with similar problems
You can use our Impulsive and compulsive
behaviour in Parkinson's monitoring and information tool to
help with this discussion.
Treatment for impulsive and compulsive behaviour
Impulsive and compulsive behaviour can be controlled. Treatment
may involve reducing the daily dose of Parkinson's medication,
having psychotherapy and looking into other types of
We do not advise anyone to stop taking or to change
their Parkinson's drugs without seeking the advice of their health
Dopamine agonist withdrawal syndrome can happen if
someone stops taking dopamine agonists suddenly. This can lead to
symptoms such as depression, anxiety and pain.
You'll find more detail in our Impulsive
and compulsive behaviour in Parkinson's information sheet.
Real life stories - people's experiences of impulsive and
The people who have shared their experiences
here hope that their stories will help others identify any
potential issues, and take action:
You'll also find details of how some Parkinson's drugs can
affect sex and relationships in our Intimate relationships and Parkinson's
Legal action against drug manufacturers
If you're thinking about taking legal action against a drug
manufacturer, there may be a limited time frame in which to do
Anyone considering this path would need to seek specialist legal
advice as soon as possible.
Regulation Authority should be able to advise you further. They
can be contacted on 0870 606 2555.
Impulsive and compulsive behaviour research
We've published the results of 2 research projects we funded on
impulsive and compulsive behaviour. These projects focused on risk
factors and how the symptoms should be managed.
More drug treatments for Parkinson's
In this section
Direct and confidential help and support
Share your experiences with others on our
impulsive and compulsive behaviour discussion forum.