ADHD Impulsivity

Impulsivity Challenges in ADHD Explained

ADHD impulsivity is a common but complex hurdle, often leading individuals to act swiftly without pause or consideration. This facet of ADHD not only disrupts daily routines but also poses unique personal challenges. In this content, we aim to dissect the underpinnings of why those with ADHD are predisposed to impulsive actions, providing clarity on a behavior that intertwines with their lives. Our exploration seeks to offer valuable insights and practical advice for those grappling with impulsivity within the context of ADHD.

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ADHD Impulsivity And Decision Making

Impulsivity, a term used to describe the difficulty or inability to inhibit impulses and thoughts, can often be associated with ADHD. It is a condition wherein an ADHD brain immediately does what it wants to do and does not think about the outcome

But, ADHD impulsivity, unlike impulsivity that neurotypicals can experience, is often triggered by strong emotions such as joy, excitement, or frustration. 🥺 😭 😉

Often, we do not think of impulsivity as a symptom of ADHD. We tend to think that what we are doing is completely normal, even if sometimes, complications in the different aspects of our lives arise and cause problems. This may also result in conflicts in relationships or even career paths.

most people know that ADHD can be composed of inattentive and hyperactive traits

What's with an ADHD brain that is prone to having impulsive behaviors? Numerous studies link ADHD with brain functions. Some say that the prefrontal cortex, the brain area responsible for executive functioning, might be weaker in people with ADHD

Others say that there is an imbalance of neurotransmitters, the chemicals secreted by neurons to send messages to other cells. Some resources indicate that ADHD is associated with lower dopamine and norepinephrine production

But whatever the reason may be, we should understand these neurobiological mechanisms well to manage impulsive behaviors.

Predominantly Hyperactive And Impulsive Behaviors

If you have undergone an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Diagnosis, you can be tagged as someone with Predominantly Hyperactive and Impulsive Presentation of ADHD. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for ADHD, people tagged with this ADHD Type can experience these different traits or symptoms:

  • Feelings of always being on the go and cannot stay in one place
  • Fidgets and squirms in their seats
  • Talks a lot and interrupts others while talking
  • Blurts out answers before the question has been completed
  • Has difficulty waiting for their turn

The urge for them to do something may be more intense than thinking about the cause of their action or what the outcome or future consequences will be. The impulse control of some people with ADHD can be tough to manage.

Many people do not know about the impulsive aspect of ADHD

But we cannot solely blame ADHD for having these impulsive urges. Other comorbid disorders can lead to being impulsive, too. After all, behavioral models may suggest that there are different reasons for impulsivity.

The Different Types Of Impulsivity

Impulsivity can be categorized into four different types depending on how the action stemmed out and the reasons behind the impulsive behavior. To give you a brief knowledge on this, here's a quick explanation:

  1. Motor Impulsivity – This type is associated with the sudden outburst or actions that an individual does. This can be seen in people who tend to be fidgety, have difficulty sitting still, or are always on the go.
  2. Emotional Impulsivity – This is when an individual makes a decision based on their emotions. People who tend to be impatient, short-tempered, or quick to anger might have this type of impulsivity. Emotional dysregulation can sometimes be a part of ADHD symptoms that we need to manage.
  3. Cognitive Impulsivity – This type involves the inability to think straight or focus on a task. People with this type of impulsive personality trait tend to make rash decisions, act without thinking, or be forgetful, which can cause problems in the future.
  4. Sensory Impulsivity – This is when an individual has a hard time processing information. They are easily distracted and have a hard time filtering out irrelevant information.

Impulsive decisions or actions do not only result in problems for the individual but also for the people around them. Some people with impulsivity struggles tend to be more prone to accidents, developing addictions, or having problems with the law.

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Impulsive Buying: The Blissful Feeling Of Checking Out

I can attest to the extreme joy some people with ADHD feel when buying something they like but might not need afterward. 😅 I can relate to the satisfaction they feel when they add something to cart immediately after seeing it and paying for it without realizing that there's no guarantee that they will use it. 😉

Sometimes when I prepare a list of things to buy for grocery shopping, 📝 I would impulsively buy something that I want but don't need. And this happens more often than not. It has already become a problem, so I have to be careful every time I go out shopping. 🛍️  And let’s not mention the amount of money I spent on my old hobbies that I am no longer interested in.

It is easy for many people to justify impulsive buying with the "I deserve it" excuse. And some people with ADHD often cling to whatever urges they have, especially when they can reason out their emotions well. The temporary feeling that we experience when we buy something that isn't needed is most likely attributed to the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward.

Impulsive Talking: Making Comments That Are Uncalled For

When having a conversation, some people with ADHD sometimes aren't able to properly filter the words that come out of their mouths and blurt them out. They sometimes can't hold back what they think or feel about a situation, especially if it's something that makes them laugh or gets their adrenaline running.

Another reason why we often interrupt conversations is that we tend to get excited about a topic, to the point that we can't help but share our thoughts about it. It's as if we're trying to grab the other person's attention so they would listen to us talk. Sometimes, we want to express our thoughts immediately because we might forget about them afterward. We may say things without even realizing that there are people around us who might not like to listen.

ADHD impulsivity can be... interrupting people when they are talking

An ADHD brain processes information so fast that sometimes, we don't even let others finish what they are saying, which can be annoying. 😭 The words fly out of our mouths, and we don't realize who will be affected by them.

Impulsive Decision: Getting Thrilled At First, Then Scared Afterwards

Many people with ADHD are often known for being spontaneous, which can sometimes result in them doing things without thinking first. But, impulsive actions from hasty decisions can also get us into trouble. It's not only the words that come out of our mouths that we need to be careful about, but also the weight our words bear. For instance, the weight of saying yes to an invitation. 

ADHD Impulsivity can be taking risks

My friend invited me to try and do intense activities as she is inherently outgoing. She asked me to go bungee jumping with her, and without thinking too much about it, I said yes. After I had signed the waiver, I realized what I had gotten myself into. 😨 And when the time came to jump, I was so scared that I started to regret my decision. 🥺

We sometimes avoid the complex pattern of undergoing paralysis analysis that would help us think more about the risks we are about to take. This is one of the many reasons some people with ADHD tend to make hasty decisions that they might regret.

Oversharing Personal Information

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can have impulsivity as one of the core symptoms. As a result, some people with ADHD may find themselves in situations where they share too much information without thinking about it first.

This was something that I struggled with for a long time. I would tell strangers personal things about myself that I wouldn't even tell my closest friends. It's as if the words were just spilling out of my mouth, and I couldn't control them.

ADHD impulsivity can be... sharing "too much"

I don't know if it's just me, but do you also experience having an awkward silence when you are with someone inside a room or an enclosed space? For example, if I'm alone with someone inside an elevator and we are both silent, I would start to feel awkward and break the silence by talking. Once I start talking, I can't help but keep going, even if I'm talking about random, personal things. 😔

This is one of the many ways ADHD can make social interactions difficult. It's hard to know when to stop talking, especially when we are enjoying the conversation. It's also hard to know when it's appropriate to share certain information.

Impulsivity And Its Upside

But after all these struggles, there is still an upside to having impulsivity. And that is, some people with ADHD can often see the world in a different, more creative way. ❤️

We can come up with spontaneous ideas, and we're not afraid to take risks. This allows us to be more flexible and adaptable to change. We're also good at problem-solving because we can think thoroughly and quickly develop solutions.

but the impulsivity of ADHD brains has good sides too!

So, even though impulsivity can be a struggle for some people with ADHD, it can also be one of our strengths.

  • Being impulsive eliminates the time spent on decision-making processes and allows us to just go for it. And while this can sometimes result in regrettable decisions, it also allows us to live life to the fullest and experience new things.
  • Those people with minimal impulse control can be spontaneous and creative. They can provide new perspectives and see the world differently.
  • An adult ADHD brain with impulsive behavior can be a source of many advantages. They can also be successful in many different types of careers. They can easily adapt to stressful jobs because of being impulsive.
  • Impulsivity can make us passionate people. Even though adults with ADHD tend to make rash decisions and fail while at it, we get to learn from these mistakes and become better people. And in the end, our impulsivity is what makes us unique.

Impulsivity doesn't just give us struggles in our everyday lives. There are also positive sides to it. 😘 While we may not be able to control our impulsive behavior, it doesn't mean that we can't use it to our advantage. Embrace your impulsivity and let it fuel your creativity. Let it be the source of your success.

Additional Notes For Impulsivity

As we all know, impulsivity can lead us to different directions mainly because it affects how we make decisions

We may not understand our ADHD brains, which makes our mental health more at stake. And with these impulsive behaviors bringing plenty of mistakes along the way, we could have decisions that can make our struggles more intense.

While it is part of human behavior to explore and be curious, it can result in problems if not done in moderation. One wrong decision can result in disastrous consequences.

That is why people with ADHD should be careful in making decisions. They should consider the pros and cons of every situation before taking any action.

On top of this, people with ADHD can easily acquire several related neurodivergent disorders if impulsivity cannot be managed well. The risk of having pathological gambling, compulsive eating disorders, and substance abuse disorders, is high among people who cannot cope well with their symptoms of ADHD.

We can also experience different comorbidities if our impulsivity reaches the point that it can affect our daily lives. Anxiety Disorders may be triggered if we let our wrong decisions take over us. Major Depressive Disorder and Personality Disorders may also arise if we cannot find ways to cope with our impulsive behaviors.

It is crucial to have self-awareness of these common symptoms of ADHD and do self-report measures to be knowledgeable of our current state. If we are not well aware of our condition, we will not be able to monitor ourselves and be more conscious of our actions. Healthy controls such as talking to your mental health professional, having a solid support system, and positive reinforcement can help in managing impulsivity.

ADHD & Impulsivity

ADHD and Impulsivity: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is ADHD impulsivity?

ADHD impulsivity is different from the impulsivity experienced by neurotypical individuals. When you have ADHD, you might have low levels of dopamine. Giving in to your impulses can relieve the deficiency as it gives a “dopamine surge.” Also, ADHD impulsivity can occur because ADHD affects the brain’s executive functions, which play a role in our planning and decision making skills.

Does ADHD impulsivity result in complications?

In most cases, the result is unnecessary expenses due to impulsive buying. However, impulsivity can also affect personal relationships. Interrupting people, for instance, can result in misunderstandings. Hasty decisions can also lead to regrettable decisions. ‍

Is there an upside to ADHD impulsivity?‍

Yes, there is. Being impulsive can help you gain experiences from your mistakes. Moreover, it can also help you see the world in a different light. 

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