What is Disinhibition in Psychology?

Disinhibition refers to a total disregard for societal norms coupled with impulsivity and aggression. People who suffer from the condition find it difficult to refrain from prohibited acts and are quickly stamped as ‘misfits’ in a social setting. Behaviors can range from binge eating, fearless gambling, sensation seeking, fastidious perseverance, and a lust for instant gratification.

Disinhibited individuals cannot withhold or suppress the urge for an inappropriate or unwanted act or comment. So we can also define disinhibition as the repeated production of socially unacceptable actions by an individual.

While all of us can sometimes use harsh language, produce an unwanted act or comment, and resort to instant-gratification behaviors, we do it once in a blue moon. But in a disinhibited person, these behaviors are so prevalent and occur so often that they become the hallmarks of their personality. In short, it’s the repetition of impulsive and aggressive behaviors that sets these individuals apart from an average person.

Is Disinhibition Associated with Other Conditions?

Yes, disinhibition seems to play a part in borderline personality disorder and psychopathy.

It’s hard to define borderline personality disorder and psychopathy in a single line because each condition refers to a combination of traits. But in layman’s terms, a person is said to be borderline if they’re emotionally unstable and impulsive. On the other hand, a person is referred to as a psychopath if they don’t show remorse for what they’ve done, don’t care for the future, and are generally aggressive.

A borderline personality is always found on the verge. Sometimes, borderline individuals can even seem to be struggling to stop their irresponsible behavior, but they’re unable to do so. It appears that they suffer from a mild form of disinhibition, not so weak but not as strong as found in psychopaths.

Psychopaths, on the contrary, are marked by significant disinhibition. In Patrick’s triarchic model of psychopathy, disinhibition is one of the core traits of a psychopathic personality. The other two are boldness and meanness. He referred to disinhibition as a propensity towards issues of impulse control.

While borderline personalities can feel remorse after uninhibited behavior is over, a psychopath is less likely to do so. It’s the continuation of an undesirable act that draws a line between occasional aggression and disinhibition.

But it’s not always the case that disinhibition is associated with a mental disorder. Damage to some areas of the brain can also lead an individual to develop it. Some medications, such as some sleeping pills and benzodiazepines, can also cause disinhibition in some individuals. Alcohol and other drugs are also known to cause temporary or permanent disinhibition in a person.

While most people think that uninhibited behavior is always harmful to the person affected, it might not always be the case. If you’re at a party, having a mild form of disinhibition can make the event even more joyful.

But contrary to popular belief, uninhibited behavior is most likely to be harmful to the people around the person affected. However, that’s not to say that a disinhibited individual cannot and won’t harm themselves.

What Causes Disinhibition?

The science of psychology has always remained under the significant influence of philosophy and sociology. For that reason, it’s most common for psychologists to attribute every disorder to social or environmental causes. That is also the case with the phenomenon of disinhibition.

Latest studies in neurobiology reveal that brain lesions or damage to the brain, especially to the frontal lobe, can lead to disinhibition. As far as psychopaths and borderline people are concerned, it has been confirmed that their personality traits are primarily inherited, congenital, and genetic. Since disinhibition appears to play a significant role in the lives and behaviors of these people, we can say with confidence that it’s also genetic.


High Ranker is a self-taught psychologist and a freelance writer. He graduated in botany and likes to describe himself as a nature lover. He spends most of his time exploring different subjects and navigating existing academic research. He has a profound interest in health sciences and issues related to scientific research. When he's not writing something, you can find him talking to random people, reading a book, or gardening at home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *