What is Impulsivity?
Impulsivity manifests as being easily swayed by emotional swings or involuntary urges for momentary desires, without weighing them rationally to make the best decision. Impulsivity refers to a tendency to act without thinking through the potential consequences of one’s actions. It can lead to behaviors that are risky or harmful to oneself or others. Self-control is a function of the prefrontal cortex and is one of the variables that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Decision making, planning, and problem-solving work to keep impulsivity in check. Toddlers are notorious for being impulsive as their frontal lobes are still quite immature and underdeveloped. In addition to the very young, impulsivity is a common symptom of several mental health conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), borderline personality disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and bipolar disorder.
Treating the Source of the Impulsivity
In many instances impulsivity can be reduced, and self-control markedly improved by treating the source of the potential issue. If the cause is ADHD, it is important to get evaluated, diagnosed, and then explore appropriate treatments for ADHD. Many treated find they have far less issues with controlling impulses when treating their ADHD. Similarly bipolar disorder almost always calls for mood stabilizer medications that keep people on a stable even keel. Accordingly, their impulsive tendencies diminish greatly. Likewise, borderline personality disorder is very effectively treated with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) designed to teach skills that improve self-control and reflection.
Are There Tools We Can All Use?
Most agree that they may have a few impulsive tendencies or “weak spots”, and there is room for all of us to enhance our self-control. Research suggests that people are likely to fall on a spectrum with regards to impulsivity and self-control and in many instances, we can take steps to cultivate more self-control with time and practice. Here are some strategies that may be helpful in managing impulsivity:
- Pause and reflect: When you feel the urge to act impulsively, take a moment to pause and reflect on the potential consequences of your actions. Ask yourself, “What are the possible outcomes of this decision, and how will it affect me and others?”
- Delay gratification: Impulsivity often involves seeking immediate gratification or pleasure. Delaying gratification can help you develop greater self-control and reduce impulsive behaviors. For example, if you have the urge to buy something on impulse, wait a day or two before making the purchase.
- Set goals: Setting goals can help you focus your energy and attention on achieving positive outcomes. Identify specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that are important to you and align with your values.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help you develop greater awareness of your thoughts and feelings and reduce impulsivity.
- Avoid Triggers: If your Achilles Heel is ice cream, it may be best to avoid that aisle in the grocery store and avoid ice cream parlors and not fool yourself into thinking you can probably have just a little this time.
- Seek support: Working with a therapist or counselor can help you develop strategies to manage impulsivity and address any underlying mental health conditions that may be contributing to impulsive behaviors.
Remember that managing impulsivity is a process that requires practice and commitment. Be patient with yourself and celebrate your successes along the way.
If you are struggling with impulsivity and want to work on enhancing your skill set, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an appointment with one of our providers for a more thorough assessment. Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.
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