Impulsivity is a tendency to act on a whim, displaying behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences. Impulsive actions are typically “poorly conceived, prematurely expressed, unduly risky, or inappropriate to the situation that often result in undesirable consequences.
Acting on impulse is spontaneous. There’s no consideration to how it could affect others. There’s no wondering how you’ll feel about it later. It’s just about the here and now.
Examples of this include:
• bingeing: overindulging in things like shopping, gambling, and eating
• destruction of property: destroying your own or someone else’s things in a moment of anger
• escalating problems: taking minor situations and making them more urgent and important than necessary
• frequent outbursts: losing your cool far too often, even when it’s clearly uncalled for
• lots of starting over: abruptly joining and quitting groups or wiping the slate clean in search of a fresh start
• oversharing: talking without thinking and sharing intimate details
• physical violence: overreacting by getting physical in the spur of the moment
• higher risk sex: engaging in sex without a condom or other barrier method, especially with a person whose STI status is unknown
• self-harm: hurting yourself in the heat of anger, sadness, or disappointment
Young children are often impulsive. That’s because they don’t yet realize how their own behavior can affect others. They may not understand that their actions have consequences beyond their immediate wants.
Some examples of this are:
• ignoring danger: running into the street without checking traffic or jumping into a pool even though they can’t swim
• interrupting: frequently butting into conversations
• getting physical: pushing another child or throwing something when upset
• grabbing: Taking what they want rather than asking or waiting for a turn
• getting vocal: screaming or yelling in frustration
Conditions linked with impulsivity –
Impulsive behavior can be a symptom of several conditions. It can also be seen in patients with anxiety and autism spectrum disorders, as well as substance abuse. Some of the most common ones include:
• Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Examples of impulsivity here include interrupting others who are talking, shouting out answers to questions, or having trouble waiting your turn when standing in line.
• Bipolar disorder. This brain disorder affects your mood, energy level, and ability to do day-to-day activities. Impulsiveness can show up in behaviors like extreme spending habits or substance abuse.
• Antisocial personality disorders. With these disorders, you pay little or no attention to right and wrong and tend to treat people badly without thinking about the consequences. Impulsive behavior linked to them can include substance abuse or other harmful actions and having a hard time with personal relationships.
• Trichotillomania. Also known as “hair-pulling disorder,” this is when you can’t stop pulling out your hair – on top of your head, eyebrows, eyelids, or anywhere else on your body.
• Kleptomania. This is when you can’t resist the urge to steal and feel a sense of relief when you do it, though you might not even keep what you steal.
• Pyromania. This is the urge to set fires or being obsessed about setting fires. It’s rare — only around 3% of psychiatric inpatients are diagnosed with pyromania.
• Pathological gambling. While many people make a small handshake wager here and there or play the occasional office pool, people who have this disorder can get caught up in it to the point that it affects their work or relationships and the stress takes a toll on their health.
The cause of being impulsive may not always be evident. People may also indulge in risky behavior for reasons other than impulsivity. It’s also not uncommon to see impulsiveness in young children who haven’t developed self-control.
Researchers have a long way to go to fully understand the links between impulsivity and:
• brain connectivity
• brain function
Physical conditions, such as brain lesions and stroke, can also lead to symptoms such as impulsive behavior.
Risk Factors –
• Being male
• Being of younger age
• Chronic exposure to violence and aggressive
• Being the subject of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse and neglect
• Preexisting mental illness
• Family history of mental illness
• Personal or family history of substance abuse and addiction
How to approach this behavior depends on the cause. In many cases, the person is not at fault. They may not have the ability to change.
When it’s your child, you can:
• make them aware of their impulsivity and how it affects them later
• explore alternative behaviors by role-playing
• teach and practice patience
You can deal with your own impulsive tendencies by:
• mentally walking through potential scenarios and practicing how to stop and think before acting
• dealing directly with your usual impulsiveness by making it harder to binge, splurge, or dive headlong into things
If you feel that you can’t gain control on your own, a healthcare professional can provide helpful resources.
If impulsivity is part of a condition, the treatment depends on the cause. One general approach is applied behavioral analysis, where you learn to work through or better handle situations that tend to trigger your impulsive behavior.
Your doctor also might recommend medications. Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, can help with impulse control disorders.
If the behavior is part of ADHD, medications prescribed for that condition might help. Thoseinclude amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) or methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin). Sometimes, nonstimulant medications like clonidine and guanfacine can help with impulse control, too.
In addition to complying with your treatment plan and seeing a therapist, there are steps you can take to better cope with impulsivity. Often, the first step is to identify the impulsive behaviors that you’d like to change. Next, you can try one of these strategies when you notice an urge to engage in one of those behaviors:
• Conduct a chain analysis, which allows you to identify the impulsive behavior, what happened prior to the behavior, evaluate your thoughts and feelings, and consider the consequences.
• Join a support group. If you lack resources like supportive friends and a family, joining a support group can be helpful in managing your impulsive behaviors. It will also allow you to talk to others about what has (and hasn’t) worked for them as far as coping with impulsive behaviors.
• Replace impulsive behaviors with healthy ones. While impulsivity may cause a short-term positive effect (for example, taking away anxiety or fear), there are healthy ways to cope, including going for a walk, journaling, talking to a trusting friend, or meeting with a support group.
• Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing is one way to help manage stress, which can help you regulate your mood and reduce impulsive behavior. Focusing on your breathing can also help distract you as you move past the urge to act impulsively.
For more informative articles on Psychological health and other health related issues, please visit our website www.santripty.com and also feel free to consult with our experienced team of doctors, get benefits and stay healthy.