How Does ADHD Affect a Person's Impulse Control?
Browsing through different criteria for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, I often read that being impulsive can be one of the main reasons you might be diagnosed with ADHD by your mental health professional. Our impulsive behaviors can be as simple as blurting out comments without thinking or as life-altering as making a hasty decision to quit our job and move. But why do some people with ADHD tend to make decisions abruptly without thinking hard? 🤔 Is there something in our ADHD brains that makes us more prone to impulsive actions than others? Let's find out how ADHD affects our sense of impulse control and what to do about them.
When studying an ADHD brain's anatomy and its corresponding function, impulse control may be linked with two distinct areas of the brain: the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia 🧠. The prefrontal cortex is located just behind our frontal lobes and is responsible for rational decision-making, like planning and organization. On the other hand, the basal ganglia is situated at the base of our hypothalamus and regulates more instinctive decisions such as hunger or fight or flight response 😨.
Due to the neurodivergent structure of our ADHD brain, these integral brain components' complex patterns and functionality are wired differently. This may result in inattention and impulsivity that may create future consequences whether we like it or not.
That may be the science behind our ADHD impulsivity. But on the contrary, can I still have ADHD even if I am not physically impulsive?
ADHD Brains are Wired Differently
You might wonder why some people with ADHD don't exhibit impulsive behaviors. And then, there are also those who struggle because they make impulsive decisions quite often. The most straightforward reason is that ADHD has a complex pattern of behavior that exhibits its symptoms in different forms 👌.
In other words, even though there are people who have a greater chance to interrupt people, there are those who can stay quiet during conversations and execute their impulse control well 👏. However, their ADHD symptoms might just be well-contained inside their brains, and they struggle within themselves only. Sometimes, their hyperactive ADHD symptoms tend to be displayed in their minds as an inner monologue that feels like they are talking to themselves 💭.
There are also people with ADHD who have different aspects of symptoms that affect them. They may be inattentive at times and forget about the details quickly. Some of the other ADHD symptoms these people may have include difficulties focusing on or giving their full attention and commitment to achieve a task. These people tend to get easily distracted by external stimulants.
As our everyday lives get easily influenced by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it is essential to understand our brains and how it affects our decisions. There are moments when our impulse control is quite challenging to execute, but it is possible to take the lead and make better decisions by learning our strategies 👌.
An ADHD Brain's Tendency to Act Impulsively
Many adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have experienced being in trouble due to their impulsivity and rash decisions 😓. They often take risks in deciding immediately without thinking through every possible consequence. Moments like these may lead to regrets, self-criticism, and low self-esteem.
Certain behaviors of some adults with ADHD might also be seen as irresponsible in the eyes of family and friends, which may affect relationships. Impulsive behaviors may also make us appear clumsy and unreliable. These are some of the scenarios in that our impulsivity might get the best of us:
Impulsivity Because of Forgetfulness
Since there are people with ADHD who have trouble remembering things, they may find the need to exert extra effort for recall. There are moments when we feel the urge to drop anything we are doing to take the valuable opportunity to do other things impulsively because we don't want to forget them 😅.
When I was busy doing household chores, I remembered that our light fixtures 💡 were already busted out and needed replacement. I was intensively cleaning my place, and suddenly, the idea of spontaneously replacing the bulb while having my hands wet popped into my head. Luckily, my visiting friend stopped me, reminding me of the potential danger I was about to take. I didn't even consider the consequences that may have happened due to my impulsive behavior.
Impulsivity Because of Time Awareness (or Lack Thereof)
Aside from compensating for being forgetful, we can sometimes be impulsive because we have spent our time elsewhere ⌛. We may suddenly realize that the time is already running out, yet we have to accomplish something. That's why it can be frustrating to start a task because there are moments when our brain wants us to finish what we should do instantly.
It is part of human behavior to be less aware of the time, especially when we enjoy doing something. However, when these instances often happen, and we lack self-awareness about time, negative consequences will entail. We tend to do things impulsively to make up for the time we spend on anything less significant and do things hurriedly, which can result in negative consequences 😞. Like when driving carelessly just to make it to our appointment on time, we do not realize that the speed is too fast and can cause a disastrous consequence.
Impulsivity Can Cause Careless Mistakes
One of the core symptoms of ADHD is making careless mistakes due to inattention and being easily distracted. Since our attention span and interest can be affected by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, we are prone to miss details, misunderstand instructions or ideas that are not adequately explained, or make a wrong decision without understanding the context 😢. But we might also make careless and repetitive mistakes due to our hyperactive-impulsive presentation-related symptoms.
When we display impulsive behaviors, we tend to act impulsively and make mistakes. We lose focus because we lack impulse control on the things that need to be done immediately and require high concentration levels 🤔. Sometimes, when we are eager to learn new skills, there are instances that we make mistakes more often because of impulsivity. We are prone to be scolded, laughed at, or even fired because of our actions. (Unless you made an impulsive decision to resign first)
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Impulse Control and Substance Abuse Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can have other mental health comorbid disorders. As such, having Substance Abuse Disorder can be one of the things that can coexist with our neurodivergent disorder. Primarily when related to our impulsivity, the tendency to try new things makes us prone to substance abuse or addiction 🍷.
Our ability to contain our impulses is part of the healthy controls and processes often set so that we don't act nimbly and cause further consequences. When we experience struggles and lack support groups that understand them, our impulsive actions tend to search for temporary escapes and relief, such as cigarette smoking 🚬, alcohol abuse 🥃, drug addiction, and other substances.
When every symptom of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder makes us struggle daily, expect our lack of impulse control to kick in and try to do things differently. That's why it is essential to be aware of our actions and pay attention to the things that we think can help us relieve ourselves for a short time. The need to find support and take behavior therapy may be recommended, especially when our impulsivity causes more than excessive substance usage, like pathological gambling behaviors or developing suicidal thoughts 😭.
The Positive Side of Having Impulsive Behaviors
Impulsivity isn't always about the negative, like how we interrupt conversations or being bad in decision making. Certain behaviors related to impulsivity are sometimes helpful in finding the best ADHD job just for you 😉. We can turn this ADHD trait related to our impulse control into something positive or helpful, like coming up with ideas quickly and being spontaneous and creative in solving problems.
Also, our impulsivity can sometimes work to our advantage when it comes to problem-solving or brainstorming. We can think without boundaries and limitations when we are impulsive, like how children act spontaneously. Our impulsive behaviors can also be helpful during conversations and when it comes to social skills because we can quickly come up with ideas or topics to talk about 🎤. New skills can be limitless, provided we are interested in learning more and focusing on the task at hand.
In conclusion, understanding how impulsivity works in our lives is essential. Having control over our behaviors helps us understand what decisions are best for us and the people around us. Having a better understanding and management of our impulses can lead us to more positive outcomes, such as better relationships and finding the right job.
Impulsivity may always be a part of our neurodivergent nature. Still, with proper impulse control training and support from the people surrounding us, we can turn these impulsive behaviors into something more productive and meaningful 💗.
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ADHD and Impulse Control: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Does ADHD affect impulse control?
ADHD affects people in different ways, but yes, many people with this neurodivergent condition have challenges in their impulse control. In fact, impulsivity denotes one of the core types of ADHD (hyperactive-impulsive type).
How does lack of impulse control manifest when you have ADHD?
The lack of impulse control can manifest in various ways, like making rash decisions, interrupting conversations, impulsive buying, or having running thoughts.
How do you calm ADHD impulsivity?
The best way to “calm” ADHD impulsivity is to understand it well: how does it affect you? When does it typically occur? Of course, it’s best understood under the supervision of a mental health expert.