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Coping with Impulsivity

By definition, impulsivity involves “a tendency to act on a whim, displaying behavior characterized by little or no forethought, reflection, or consideration of the consequences.”

Someone who struggles with impulsivity may find that they often speak or act without thinking. Some examples of impulsive behaviors include overindulging in things like shopping, gambling, or eating; destruction of property in moments of anger; frequent emotional outbursts; engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex; and a tendency to escalate problems.

Those who struggle with impulse control may have a decreased sensitivity to negative consequences of behaviors and have no regard for long-term consequences. Although impulsivity has been linked to disorders including bipolar and ADHD, many without these diagnoses also struggle with impulse control. Fortunately, with persistence and practice, anyone can learn to minimize the frequency of impulsive acts and reduce consequences.

Here are some coping skills for preventing and managing impulsiveness:

1) Practice pausing. Take time to practice waiting before speaking or acting. Try counting to ten, step away from the situation, imagine a big red STOP sign…whatever it takes to make pausing a regular habit before engaging in something you may regret.

2) Delay gratification. Learn how to say “no” to yourself. Delaying gratification, pushing aside that desire for an immediate reward and waiting for a later (often better) reward, can improve your self-control and help you achieve your long-term goals faster.

3) Have an accountability partner. Call a trusted friend or loved one when you feel the urge to make an impulsive decision, someone that may be aware of your struggles with impulse control and could help you pause and process possible consequences.

4) Recognize triggers. If you know that there are certain people, places, or things that set you off—avoid as much as possible. If avoiding is not an option, at least go into them prepared and ready to control your impulses ahead of time.

If you are struggling with impulse control, it may be time to talk to a licensed therapist. Call 253 Therapy and Consult to schedule an appointment today. As always, we are here for you!

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