ADDers are prone to impulsive behavior – acting without thinking. But being impulsive is more about behavior, it’s about thinking and judgement too.
Have you ever said something impulsively and then wished you could take it back? I know I have. Never ask someone when they are due if you don’t know for a fact that they are pregnant.
Like much of ADHD’s symptoms, impulsive behavior relates to Executive Function.
Remember, Executive Function controls things like being able to anticipate and plan as well as managing your emotions. In other words, you don’t always think of the consequences before you do or say something.
When you combine impulsive behavior with a tendency for risk taking (another ADHD trait) you can see how dangerous this can be, especially for children and young adults. (I once caught my son Andy riding his bike with his eyes closed. He was 5.)
Teens can be especially vulnerable. In addition to things like learning to drive – more dangerous for ADD teens – they are exposed to things like drugs, underage drinking and sex. Impulsive behavior here could have serious consequences.
Impulsive behavior can also contribute indirectly to poor self esteem. Saying or doing something inappropriate too many times can make you uncomfortable in social situations (social anxiety is often associated with ADHD) but it can also make you see yourself differently.
Taking ADHD medication can help with impulsive behavior because the medication helps the Executive Function area of your brain work more effectively.
However, medication isn’t a complete solution.
Learning to recognize when you are most likely to be impulsive and learning to regulate yourself can help a great deal. Some of this comes with age and experience, but it can also be something that you could work on with a therapist.
It’s important to learn to recognize impulsive thoughts and behaviors and to see how they might be affecting your life negatively. It’s also important to recognize that it’s a part of your ADHD and not a reflection on your self-worth.