What is Disinhibition?

Disinhibition means people lack certain restraints that are generally considered part of participating in society. Such behavior results from numerous factors including lack of maturity, repeated trauma, mental illness, or deterioration of the brain via brain damage or illnesses affecting cognition. Drugs or alcohol may also cause temporary disinhibition.

There are many different types of disinhibition, from people having extreme emotional outbursts to oversharing very private details about their lives with others. Alternately, some behaviors include things like exposing or handling the genitals in public or not using bathroom facilities. Lack of regard for conventions like respecting personal space of others might exist too.

Treating disinhibition focuses first on cause. The severely intoxicated person who is singing so loudly he’s disturbing the neighbors has a temporary case that resolves as alcohol blood levels drop. It might be necessary to remove this person to a safe location, like a jail or hospital, until sufficient recovery is made. Disinhibited people may not only act in rude ways but also to act in ways that can be self-injuring or injurious to others.


When disinhibition arises from conditions like mania, and it can be one of the main symptoms of a person who is manic, it might take some time to find a way for that person to recover via drug therapy for conditions like bipolar disorder. In the interim, the person would need careful observation to make certain he or she did not pose risk to self or behave in ways that are socially unacceptable or illegal. Hospitalization might be considered until normal inhibitions were reestablished.

In people with incurable traumatic or deteriorative brain conditions, addressing this condition may be more difficult. In a supportive setting, caretakers might try to make available options to help the person express behaviors less. For example, reminding people to use the bathroom or distracting them with alternatives when a disinhibitive behavior occurs may help lessen expression of the condition. It’s not always possible to completely eliminate such behaviors.

Psychotherapy is thought a good option for people who are routinely socially disinhibitive. Those who find themselves constantly sharing too much private information in the social milieu may find they are alone and have few friends. Such oversharing may come from some of the personality disorders and it also arises in people who suffered significant abuse as children, particularly sexual abuse, and as a result, grew up with an immature sense of social boundaries. Therapy can help address traumatic experiences and focus on behavioral training that makes boundaries more clear.

In most cases, this condition needs to be understood as a consequence of the person’s illness or maturity level, and not as deliberate attempts of the person to upset others. Knowing this behavior has a cause helps people deal with it more compassionately. In many instances, disinhibition is either temporary or responds to treatment, but in severe cases, illness to the brain creates a permanent state of it, and all effort goes toward kindly and empathetically minimizing behaviors.


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