ADHD and Impulsivity

Eugenio Marongiu/cultura/Getty Images.

One of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD is impulsivity. If you have impulsivity, you have probably heard, ‘you never think before you speak’ or ‘you always act first and think later’ a million times. Even if you shrug these comments off, they still hurt. It’s hard to lead a successful and happy life when your impulsive nature is unmanaged. Impulsivity can lead to getting fired (more than once), broken romances and friendships, debt and more.

Here are some of the characteristics of impulsivity.

1.     Speaking without thinking; often offending people

2.     Making impulsive purchases, big and small when shopping

3.     Leaving jobs on a whim

4.     Losing your temper quickly

5.     Being a rule-breaker. Rules get in the way of you being able to live and act in the moment

6.     Talking a lot and rarely listening

7.     Interrupting other people when they speak

8.     Prone to addictions

9.     Doing things that put yourself and others in physical danger

10.  Constantly looking for excitement

However, it’s not all bad! Being impulsive also means you:

1.     Can think and speak quickly on your feet

2.     Are able to make decisions fast

3.     Are intuitive

4.     Are fun and spontaneous

5.     Are creative

It is possible to change from being fast-acting and impulsive to being more intentional and deliberate. It involves a combination of treating your ADHD and making some behavioural changes.

When you start to manage your impulsivity, the negative traits will be reduced, which makes more space for the positive aspects to flourish.

Want to become less impulsive? Here are 7 tips!

1)     Practice the art of Reflection.
Impulsive people usually live in the now. When you are always in the now, you don't get a chance to reflect on your actions.

Rather like the movie, Groundhog Day, you keep living the same experiences again and again. Reflection doesn’t need to take a long time. Simply ask yourself 3 questions: What worked? What didn’t work? What could I do differently next time? Don’t be hard on yourself when you are thinking about what didn’t work. This simple act of reflection will help pave the way for new behaviour in the future.

2)     Identify your goals.
In her book, 'The Disorganized Mind' Nancy Ratey says adults with ADHD are ‘stuck in the moment’. A great strategy to get you unstuck is to set goals and create a plan to achieve them. Even though goal setting does not come naturally to you, it is possible. The combination of reflection and goal setting is very helpful in breaking the impulsive circle. What goals would you like to set for yourself? If it feels overwhelming, start by answering this question. What 3 things would you like to achieve in the next 30 days.

3)     Time to plan.
First thing every morning, look at your goals and plan 3 actions you can take today towards them.

When you have a plan of action, you start to build your ‘Intentional’ muscle. You also have less time to follow your impulses that might lead you astray. Another benefit of planning is, your self-esteem improves because you can begin to rely on yourself to do what you said you would.

4)     Take responsibility for yourself.
Don’t blame others! This includes authority figures, the law, or your spouse. Blaming others might be a good self-protection technique, but it doesn’t serve you in the long run to have a fulfilling life.

5)     Learn social skills.
Social skills aren’t taught at school. Which means: if they don’t come naturally to you, you have no formal training to draw on. Conversations skills, active listening, noticing social cues are all skills that can be learned and will help you with all your relationships.

6)     Learn about boundaries.
Healthy boundaries are vital for people to feel respected, be physically healthy, and have good relationships. By learning about boundaries, you will know how to honor other people's boundaries as well as your own.

7)     Treat your ADHD.
How are you treating your ADHD right now? Do you need to re-evaluate your treatment plan? Treating ADHD is a multi-prong process. Head here to learn more about the different treatments.

Go slow and steady. These suggestions do work. However, in order for them to part of your daily life and become habitual, it will take time. Try not to get discouraged if you don’t see big changes straight away. You might experience “2 steps forward and 1 backwards”. That is o.k. Keep going. The results will be worth it in the long run.

Nancy A. Ratey, The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents, St. Martin's Press, 2008

Continue Reading