by Terry Matlen, ACSW
There’s so much written about ADHD- what it is, why we have it and
what we can do about it. But it’s sometimes difficult to find
information on specific help for specific ADHD related
For many with ADHD, impulsivity can be a huge problem. It can cause
injury, empty bank accounts, end marriages and more.
Impulsive: (adj) characterized by actions
based on sudden desires, whims, or inclinations rather than careful
Are you apt to jump into an activity, project or
life experience that has been dangerous to you in the past? Perhaps
you took someone up on their dare and signed up for bungee jumping.
Maybe you found your "soul mate" on the internet and met him/her in
real life before learning more about him and whether he was someone
you could be safe with. Or perhaps you yelled at your boss, not
thinking about the consequences of losing your job. More commonly,
perhaps you’ve gone online to read a movie review only to turn off
the computer 5 hours later with a shopping cart filled with items
costing hundreds of dollars you don’t have in the bank to spend. On
books you might already have. Or clothes you don’t need.
If this sounds like you, read on. Better yet,
print this out and tape it to an area in your house that is highly
so you can refer to it when that impulsive "itch" strikes
Impulsivity and hyperactivity often go together.
Your mind often doesn't think of the consequences of your behavior
as you find your body moving in a direction that might not be
healthy or safe for you in the long run. Your brain is thinking
about the present- right now- and the excitement and thrill of an
activity you are about to embark on.
What to Do When Impulsivity Strikes
Of course, this isn't an easy thing to do.
Impulsivity means doing things without thinking carefully and
thoughtfully. So this will take some practice on your part.
- Whatever it is that is pushing you to move
without thinking, play the entire episode in your mind, from
beginning to end. Sometimes, coming to the end using a mental
image, helps you to realize that perhaps the activity isn't quite
as fun or exciting as it seemed.
- Write it down. In excruciating detail. This,
like #1, will help you to slow down and think carefully about what
you're about to do. Chances are, once it's played out, you'll lose
interest in pursuing it.
- Research. Even if you already know the dangers
of unprotected sex with a stranger, go online and read the
statistics of you catching a STD and whether it's really worth
endangering your life for a night of excitement.
- Promise yourself to wait 24 hours before
following through with your plan.
- Find a safe person you can talk to- someone
who is less impulsive; a person who might even seem too cautious in
your mind- and ask his opinion on what you plan to do.
- Keep a diary of past adventures. Were they
worth it? Did you hurt yourself or people you love? Refer back as
often as possible to help you curtail repeated mistakes.
- Know your triggers. If, for example, you
absolutely cannot stop yourself from spending your entire paycheck
at the casino, then either avoid going, or if that's too
impossible, bring an envelope with the amount of cash you CAN
afford to lose and leave your debit/credit cards at home. If
hormonal changes cause you to be so irritable that you find
yourself saying inappropriate things to your boss, co-workers,
family or friends, seek medical attention. Nowadays, there are
medications to ease the irritability during your menses.
- Find healthier outlets. You've read it before
hundreds of times, but regular exercise and meditation do wonders
to keep yourself in better control. If sitting and meditating seem
impossible, take up the various moving meditations or learn karate
or other physical activities that combine mindfulness with
- Make sure you're receiving appropriate
treatment for your ADHD. If you still find yourself getting into
all sorts of trouble, it could be that the medication you are on is
not covering your symptoms adequately. Consult your physician to
discuss other options, which simply might mean an increase in your
dosage or a change to another ADHD medication.
- Remind yourself that for every action you
take, there is a reaction. It could be how your behaviors affect
your physical and mental health, your relationships with your loved
ones, or even your spiritual well being.
The big question of all: is it worth doing for
the temporary thrill of it all? What could you do instead that will
be exciting and fun, but without the potentially negative