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Tips for ADHD Impulse Control in Adults

In this day and age, life throws many challenges our way - you probably have work, a home, hobbies, a schedule, and various other commitments to keep across - and that’s to say nothing of the countless personal and professional relationships to maintain.
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Tips for ADHD Impulse Control in Adults


In this day and age, life throws many challenges our way – you probably have work, a home, hobbies, a schedule, and various other commitments to keep across – and that’s to say nothing of the countless personal and professional relationships to maintain. When you’re dealing with adult ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and the impulsivity that often comes with it, things aren’t made any easier.

You might find deadlines come and go while you’re tied-up doing other things; impulsive comments and behaviours alienate others, leading to unwelcome consequences; your self-esteem suffers constant setbacks as you can’t seem to prevent risky activities. If these kinds of impulses and whims sound familiar, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with the symptoms of ADHD.

ADHD UK report that the adult incidence rate of ADHD in the UK is up to 4%, with a total estimate of over 2.5 million people with the condition (ADHD UK). Unfortunately, ADHD is often misdiagnosed and left untreated, particularly among adults. That’s the reason it’s so important to seek an adult ADHD assessment if you’re wondering about the condition and the effects it may be having on your brain.

Read on as we explore tips and strategies for ADHD impulse control, and offer support in dealing with the problems and challenges that can stem from impulsiveness.

What Do Impulsive Behaviours Look Like?

In the words of ADDitude, “poor impulse control can sabotage your relationships, your budget, and your self-esteem” (ADDitude). But what does poor ADHD impulse control look like?

Well, there’s not one catchall label that you can stick on certain behaviours and say: ‘this is an uncontrolled impulse.’ The picture is more complicated than that.

Think of children, for instance: parents may wonder, which activities are creative, free-thinking and spontaneous, and which are the result of impulsivity? Is there even a valid distinction between the two?

It’s much the same for adulthood ADHD. Where some activities and behaviours can be chalked up to ‘simple’ spontaneity, others are the result of uncontrolled impulses, and may indicate the need for therapy and/or treatment. This is why a professional diagnosis is so crucial: you can obtain one via an adult ADHD assessment.

With that said, here are a few examples of adult behaviours that may be the result of poor ADHD impulse control:

  • A tendency to engage in risky behaviour: Do you find yourself repeatedly pursuing risky or self-destructive activities? If you seem to constantly put yourself in unhelpful and potentially-dangerous situations, you may be experiencing ADHD-related impulses.
  • Continuously being side-tracked: The distractibility that often comes with ADHD is well-documented. Perhaps you find it impossible to focus on one task for any length of time without jumping up to grab a snack, fidgeting with a pencil, or simply gazing out the window.
  • Repeatedly interrupting others: Whether at home, work or school, constantly cutting in or talking over other people can lead to problems with relationships. But what some may see as flat-out rudeness, may actually be rooted in ADHD impulsivity.
  • A propensity to spend, spend, spend: We all make impulse purchases once in a while. But if you can’t seem to hold onto your money without shelling out on the next thing to grab your attention, it can have serious financial consequences.
  • Frustration at having to wait: Does waiting to step onto a train irritate you disproportionately? Do you find yourself getting angry at the prospect of queuing up? Perhaps you get annoyed when someone is speaking and they won’t just cut to the chase? These are all potential indicators of impulsivity.

Curbing Impulsivity: Our Top Tips

Whether you’re experiencing impulsivity as a result of ADHD, or any of the other challenging symptoms it tends to present, treatment is close at-hand. The first step is to seek an adult ADHD assessment, to determine the nature of your condition; contact us today to learn more on this.

From there, we may recommend a course of behavioural therapy coaching, stimulant or non-stimulant medication, wellbeing and health practices, or mindfulness therapy and meditation. The exact nature of ADHD treatment will depend on the way your condition manifests.

With that said, here are our top-rated strategies for ADHD impulse control and effectively dealing with whimsical, risky or hasty behaviours.

Practice mindfulness and self-awareness

It takes some time and practice, but mindfulness can be a tremendously powerful support strategy for your mind. By increasing your concentration and nurturing the connection between your brain, body, thoughts and emotions, mindfulness can decrease impulsivity and exert a positive influence on all areas of your life.

There isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be mindful, so try different things – yoga, journaling, breathing exercises, quiet time – and see what works for you. The important thing is to focus and reflect on your own thoughts and behaviours in a peaceful, positive way.

Create a routine

Giving yourself a clear structure of what happens, when, is a powerful ADHD impulse control technique.

There’s no need to be military about it – unless you want to, of course! – but you’ll find that consistently performing the same activities and tasks at the same time each day helps develop a rhythm and minimise the influence of distractions.

Break tasks down into smaller steps

Often, impulsivity can spring from a sense of feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand.

Let’s take an example. Say it’s your responsibility to clean the kitchen. Now, ‘clean the kitchen’ in itself feels like quite a big job. Where do you begin? Despite best intentions, the symptom of distractibility takes hold, and you find yourself off doing other things.

But what if you broke down ‘clean the kitchen’ into smaller, bitesize, achievable chunks? Perhaps you start with washing the dishes. Then you move to sweeping the floor. Next is a wipe-down of the counters, and finish up by taking out the recycling.

In this way, breaking down bigger jobs into smaller tasks helps you establish a workflow and sidestep impulses when they occur. Plus, that nice clean kitchen will give your brain a welcome shot of dopamine!


Use a timer

Whichever activities you set about – at home, at work, or in the school classroom – you’ll need time to carry them out.

That’s unavoidable. But not knowing how long something will take, or the thought of working endlessly, can be uninspiring, to say the least – and in this state, impulsivity is almost impossible to ignore.

One way to navigate this issue is to use a timer. Say to yourself: ‘OK, I’ll work on power-mode for 30 minutes. After that, it’s time for a break.’ Many adults with ADHD find that a clear start/stop time boundary helps them to focus and stay on-track.

Learn to delay gratification

Dopamine (associated with feelings of reward, motivation and productivity) and serotonin (in charge of happiness, concentration and calmness) are considered ‘the happy hormones.’

Dopamine and serotonin combine to trigger positive emotions and sensations within the brain. When we do or get something we want, these chemical messengers are released.

Following impulses might seem like a fast-track to happiness but it’ll be short-lived, given the important tasks you neglected in favour of a distraction or impulsive behaviour. One way around this is to delay the gratification for a while – coach yourself into working on the task, and ‘look forward’ to the amplified happiness of getting what you wanted and having completed the task. It’s a win-win! This does take some discipline, but is a great way of developing ADHD impulse control.


Find ways to relax

Everybody needs to unwind and decompress – no one can stay in permanent ‘go’ mode. Whatever it is that relaxes you and brings you peace – watching a movie, taking a walk, listening to some music, just chilling out on the sofa – make time for it. Your mind and body will thank you.

Seek support

When you need a little help dealing with ADHD impulsivity and other symptoms, don’t be afraid to reach out. Communication is key, and looping others into your ‘problems’ or ‘issues’ with impulsivity helps them, help you.

People will almost always be happy to support you if they can – maybe your partner can provide gentle reminders when you start to follow impulses, or parents can help keep you on-task by reaffirming the goal you’re working towards.

And don’t forget, professional support is there when you need it. Perhaps you’ll embark upon a course of therapy treatment, or gain access to the medication you need to help you head-off impulsive behaviours.

Whatever the case; here at The ADHD Centre, we’re available to provide guidance, support and expert treatment. Seek an adult ADHD assessment to gain clarity into your condition.

Use visual reminders

Out of sight is out of mind – so, by that token, it makes sense to leave yourself visual reminders about your tasks and top priorities. Often, the simple fact of seeing things like this is enough to remind you of the activities you should focus on, and you can avoid the pitfalls of impulsivity that way.

It could be a sticky note on the fridge, an open book on the desk, or an alarm on your smartphone; visual reminders, whichever form they take, serve as a productivity prompt and can be a valuable ADHD impulse control.

Take breaks

This one goes hand-in-hand with finding ways to relax – give yourself permission to take a break every once in a while! No one can or should work endlessly, and the same is true for adults with ADHD.

It’s often the case that extended periods of work, without a break, don’t actually result in boosted productivity; rather, it is the tendency towards distractibility and the temptation to follow impulses that increase.

If you are ‘in the zone’ with a task, continue the good work, of course. But if you hit a wall or find that you’re running out of steam, take yourself away and do something else for a while. Maintaining a healthy work/break balance is key to effectively dealing with ADHD impulsivity.

Expert Treatment for ADHD, From The ADHD Centre

The impulsivity that so often comes with ADHD may lead to unhelpful and, at times, unproductive thoughts and behaviours. It can be incredibly frustrating for both you and the people around you if you seem to consistently struggle to stay on-task, without following spur-of-the-moment impulses. However, there are a number of effective self-help strategies you can utilise in order to maintain ADHD impulse control.

Here at The ADHD Centre, we’re available for those times when you need some extra support, to discuss treatment, or to obtain a professional diagnosis. Speak with one of our experts today and get an accurate adult ADHD assessment.

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We have been diagnosing and treating people with ADHD since 2009.

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