Impulsivity and Adult ADHD

Impulsivity in Adults with ADHD

Impulsivity basically refers to acting without thinking first. It is one of the most common symptoms of adult ADHD. Impulsivity in a child or teen diagnosed with ADHD is very likely to continue into adulthood.

Different aspects of impulsivity are covered by four of the ADHD diagnostic criteria in the DSM-V:

  • Talks excessively in social situations
  • Has difficulty waiting their turn to speak
  • Often blurts out answers before questions are completely asked and completes others’ sentences
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others’ conversations or activities without permission or takes over what others are doing)

The problems impulsivity causes can be wide-ranging especially with regard to personal relationships, social interactions and career progression. It may manifest as impulse buying, unsafe driving, rash communication and career self-sabotage.

Managing Impulsivity

Coping with impulsivity and adult ADHD requires a conscious change in behavior – e.g.,  thinking ahead and planning for how to avoid or manage risky situations.

If you are an adult with ADHD, there are many different ways to cope with impulsive behavior. Below are some recommended by Russell Ramsay, PhD, ABPP:

  • Awareness – Becoming aware of how your ADHD drives your impulsive behavior. This might entail recognizing situations where you are likely to engage in impulsive behavior. It can involve identifying personal risk factors for impulsive behavior such as alcohol, tiredness, moodiness, anger, medications wearing off.
  • Avoidance – Once you have become more aware of where, when and how your impulsivity is triggered, the next step is to avoid those risky situations to the degree possible.
  • Planning – Decide how you will handle risky situations that can’t be avoided and if necessary, create external reminders for yur coping strategies. As part of your plan, have daily impulsivity coping goals related to specific behaviors you are trying to change.
  • Practice – Acknowledge slip-ups and make amends, identify the lesson learned from the situation, and create (or adjust) your coping plan. Remember that managing impulsivity as part of your overall treatment and self-care plan for adult ADHD

These behavioral strategies can be used in conjunction with medication, coaching and other treatment options. Impulsivity can be a major challenge for adults with ADHD, but with awareness, commitment and practice, it can be effectively managed.



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