Impulsivity is a hallmark symptom of ADHD, but what exactly is it?
It’s a tendency to hastily do something in the moment, without reflecting on your actions first. However, these decisions can sometimes have the potential for harm.
Here are some signs that may suggest you’re impulsive, along with some tips to tame impulsivity in adults.
Are you impulsive?
If you're unsure, do you:
- spend more money than is in your bank account and find yourself in debt?
- practice addictive behaviors like gambling, binge-eating, or excessive online shopping?
- interrupt others during conversations?
- say things you wish you hadn’t because you didn’t see your words coming?
- frequently take risks like abusing recreational drugs or practicing sex without a condom or other barrier method?
- make important decisions without thinking of the consequences?
These are all symptoms of ADHD impulsivity. Talk to a mental health professional about whether you tend toward impulsivity.
The upsides and risks of being impulsive
Impulsivity isn’t always a bad thing. Creativity is “impulsivity gone right,” according to adult psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, MD.
It’s often the inspiration for an artist to create paintings, songs, and poems. It can also help standup comedians to think on their feet. Entrepreneurs sometimes even need to take seemingly impulsive risks to be successful.
But impulsivity can also get you into trouble!
Financial impulsivity can put significant strain on your relationship with your partner. You could lose a job due to addictive behaviors like gambling, or you might say things to your children or friends that you wish you could take back.
Tips to tame ADHD impulsivity
Are you looking for ideas to help reduce your impulsive ways? Here are a few tips to help you get your impulsivity under control:
Make a reminder
We often already know the solutions for our problematic behaviors. We just need to put them into practice. Write a list of things that you’re prone to doing impulsively and strategies to tame those behaviors. Keep it close to hand.
Put yourself in a friend’s shoes
Picture someone you love doing what you’re about to do. What advice would you give that person?
Abide by the 24-hour rule
Wait 24 hours before buying things you like. You may find you don’t really want or need the item after all. This plan can work with all kinds of potentially dangerous or unhealthy activities.
Try the buddy system
Tell someone you trust about your impulsive habits. Ask that person to signal you when you need to stop yourself.
Home in on social cues
Too chatty? Practice taking a step back to allow others to talk. Try to become more aware of other people’s facial expressions for signs of frustration or boredom. Ask questions if you think they might be a quiet type or if you think they have zoned out.
Snap out of it
About to say something inappropriate? Put a hairband or rubber band on your wrist and give yourself a snap to curb yourself from saying what you’re thinking. (No, it’s not OK to tell them that their hairdo looks like a bird’s nest.)