ADHD & Decision Fatigue

How often have you kicked yourself for making an impulsive decision?  We bet you’ve told yourself,  “If I just had more willpower I wouldn’t have made that mistake!”

Undoubtedly you’ve heard that impulse control and willpower are weaknesses of the ADHD brain.  True, but wait …  turns out EVERYONE has a limited supply of willpower.  And when you overuse your willpower “muscle” you are more likely to be impulsive, suffer from decision paralysis or explode.

Decision Fatigue and ADHD

Last week, the New York Times ran a lengthy article about will power, self control and new research that indicates that they are connected — more strongly than we ever imagined. It’s even got a name: Decision Fatigue.  In a nutshell, “The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain.”

Learning more about decision fatigue is useful for those of us with ADHD. So rather than sending you down the Internet rabbit hole to read a long article, we gathered up all the article’s pertinent findings that apply the ADHD brain and summarized them here:

Decision making, will power and self control are connected

  • Scientists have given all kinds of fun and creative tests to determine how will power and self control are connected.  “When people fended off the temptation to scarf down M&M’s or freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, they were then less able to resist other temptations. “
  • “Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car.”

A tired brain is an impulsive and procrastinating brain

  • When your brain is tired, it looks for shortcut.  “One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences.”  (Sound familiar?  Perhaps the ADHD brain is just more tired than everyone else’s. LOL)
  • Another short cut is to conserve energy and do nothing. “Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain.”
  • Turns out that self-control is like a muscle.  That you can tire it out for the day, and when it’s used up, you are less able to resist other temptations.  (That’s why the put the candy at the checkout line. You are less able to resist it after you’ve made all the decisions for groceries in the store.)

Sugar restores willpower

  • Sugar and willpower are connected: sugar restores willpower.  (No wonder dieting is so hard and why college students have been known to pop Skittles during late night study sessions!)
  • “ Your brain does not stop working when glucose is low.” Instead, “ it responds more strongly to immediate rewards and pays less attention to long-term prospects.”

How to boost your willpower muscle

  • People use various techniques to resist temptation.  The people who are the most effective do things to reduce temptations and conserve willpower. “They don’t schedule endless back-to-back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices.”
  • “ Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions.”

An ADHD coach can help you build your brain’s decision-making muscle power

An ADHD coach can help you assess your day-to-day routine and work out ways to reduce temptations.  Turns out that you are not alone in your struggle with impulsiveness and willpower.  Your ADHD coach brings the experience of working with many, many people on these very same issues.  The Edge Foundation’s model of coaching has been proven to boost self-regulation and executive functions such as willpower and self-control.

Now you know how willpower, impulsivity and decision making are connected.  And you also know a coach can help reduce decision fatigue and help you make better decisions.  So, what are you waiting for?  Sign up for an Edge coach today!


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