"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Symptoms, causes and treatment options

Impulsivity is the tendency to act without considering. For example, you would possibly blurt something out, buy something on a whim, or run across the road without looking. Impulsivity isn't the identical as rudeness or lack of self-discipline. It is a behavior pattern that begins within the brain.

Some degree of impulsive behavior is common, especially amongst children and adolescents, and isn't necessarily an indication of problems. It is typical for them to act impulsively as their brains are still developing. However, in some cases it might be a part of certain conditions.

Compulsive vs. impulsive

Many people confuse impulsivity and compulsivity. These are two related concepts that describe when you might have difficulty making thoughtful decisions. The biggest difference is that impulsive behavior is unplanned and spontaneous, while compulsive behavior is repetitive and ritualistic. For example, suddenly purchasing an expensive item is an impulsive behavior. But checking again and again to make certain the stove is off is a compulsive behavior.

In some ways, impulsivity and compulsivity are opposites. But many individuals exhibit each impulsive and compulsive behavior. Some scientists consider that impulsivity and compulsivity could also be closely linked – different behavioral patterns brought on by the identical brain processes.

The a part of the brain that controls decision making and considering known as the prefrontal cortex. It is an element of the frontal lobe in your brow. You can consider it because the little voice in your head asking, “Is this really a good idea?” Why or why not?” If you have poor impulse control, this voice may be very quiet or not present at all. This makes it difficult to stop yourself from reaching for another piece of cake or making an inappropriate comment.

Children are often impulsive because they are still developing and maturing. This process continues as you grow up.

When you become a teenager, your brain goes through some big changes. Each part of the brain changes at its own pace. The parts that process emotions (like the amygdala) tend to mature faster than the parts that control thinking (like the prefrontal cortex). As a result, teenagers are often overwhelmed by emotions but do not yet have the decision-making skills to think through their reactions.

For this reason, it is normal for teenagers to act impulsively. As you grow up, the rational parts of your brain usually catch up with the emotional parts of your brain, making it easier for you to control your impulses.

But certain things can damage your frontal lobe and affect your ability to make logical decisions, such as:

  • Brain injury
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • dementia

In addition, disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder can occur impulsive behavior.

Impulsivity is the main feature of some disorders. These conditions, called impulse control disorders, occur when you often feel the urge to behave in a negative way.

Experts don't know exactly what causes impulse control disorders, but they are linked to certain risk factors, such as:

  • Genetics. If you have a family member with a mental illness, you may be at higher risk of suffering from impulse control disorder.
  • Biology. Unusual brain or hormonal patterns can contribute to impulsive behavior.
  • Social and ecological conditions. Growing up with money problems, violence, neglect, or other challenges can lead to impulse control disorders.
  • Sex. Men are more likely to suffer from impulse control disorders.

It's human nature to sometimes say or do something you wish you hadn't done. However, if it happens too often, it can cause problems in your personal life.

If you notice a regular pattern of the following symptoms, impulsivity could be a problem for you:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • restlessness
  • Interrupt others
  • Easily distracted
  • Break the law
  • destroy things
  • It's hard to save money or manage finances
  • Inappropriate or sexual comments
  • Tantrums
  • Lack of foresight

Impulsive behavior in children

All children act impulsively from time to time. Examples include:

  • Call out in class
  • Jump without looking where they will land
  • Uncontrollable emotional reactions such as jumping or screaming
  • Say the first thing that comes to mind, even if it's not nice
  • They find it difficult to store their pocket money or wait for dessert

It might be time to talk to your child's doctor or psychologist if impulsive behavior:

  • Form a regular pattern
  • Are more serious (like stealing or starting fights)
  • Interfere with daily activities and relationships

Impulsive behavior can be a symptom of various medical conditions, including those that are not directly associated with impulsive behavior – for example, anxiety and autism spectrum disorder. The most common include:

ADHD. Examples of impulsivity in ADHD include interrupting others who are talking, shouting answers to questions, or having difficulty waiting in line for your turn.

Bipolar disorder. This brain disorder affects your mood, energy levels, and ability to carry out everyday activities. Impulsivity can manifest itself in behaviors such as extreme spending or substance abuse.

Trichotillomania. Also known as “Hair pulling disorder“This is when you may't stop pulling out your hair – in your head, eyebrows, eyelids or anywhere else in your body.

Pathological gambling. People with this disorder cannot stop gambling, even when it impacts their work, home life, and health.

These disorders occur less often. People in whom they act follow the urge to do things which might be harmful to themselves or others, aren't socially acceptable, or are against the law. Impulse control disorders can take many various forms, akin to:

Oppositional defiance. In this case, you can't stop yourself from being disrespectful to authority figures akin to parents or cops.

behavioral disorder. This is the case in case you are commonly aggressive towards other people. Disrespectful behavior, cruelty, theft and rule breaking can occur.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder. You often lose your temper, often briefly bursts. If you might have this condition, even the smallest things can trigger anger or aggression.

Kleptomania. Then you may't resist the urge to steal. Afterward, you're feeling a way of relief or joy, despite the fact that it's possible you'll not even keep what you steal.

Antisocial personality disorders. With these disorders, you pay little or no attention to right and flawed and are likely to treat people badly without interested by the implications.

Pyromania. This is the urge to set fire or the obsession with setting fire.

Various therapies, parenting strategies, and techniques can assist manage impulsive behavior, even when it isn't brought on by a selected medical condition. When impulsivity is an element of a medical condition, it will be important to treat the condition itself.

Therapy options like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) aid you understand how your thoughts and emotions affect your behavior. Then learn the right way to take care of situations which may trigger your impulsive behavior.

As a caregiver, you should utilize certain strategies to assist your child behave appropriately. You can practice these strategies on your personal or with the guidance of a therapist. Common practices include:

  • Positive reinforcement. This means praising your child when she or he behaves appropriately.
  • Promote empathy. Help your child take into consideration how other people feel. Pay attention to how certain actions might affect others.
  • Nonviolent discipline. Do not spank or hit Children in the event that they make a mistake. Instead, suggest more appropriate behavior.
  • Consistency. Sticking to a routine can assist children feel more comfortable.
  • Patience. Remember that individuals who struggle with impulsivity often haven't any intention of being rude or hurtful.

Some techniques can aid you take care of impulsive behavior. For example, you may carry a notebook with you to distract yourself or write something down before saying it out loud. The point here is to pause before you act impulsively so which you can take into consideration whether what you're about to do is idea and what the implications is likely to be.

The FDA has not approved any medications for impulsivity; But medications for conditions like depression or ADHD can sometimes help with impulsive urges. For example, antidepressants akin to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can assist with impulse control disorders.

In individuals with ADHD, medications akin to amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) or methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin) can assist with impulsivity. Sometimes non-stimulant medications akin to clonidine and guanfacine also can help with impulse control.