I’m going to level with you guys here.
I had originally set out to make this a three part series, where I discuss 5 ADHD symptoms in each part… but it turns out this is one of those times that I got a little over zealous (which as you may already know is pretty common for us ADHD Folk).
I’m thinking it may be better for me and for you if I talk about one symptom at a time and stretch this series out a little longer. I think this would benefit me because I could get more in depth with each symptom and it would benefit YOU because most ADHD brains like their info short and easily digestible.
So, I apologize if you found yourself tuning out halfway through Part 1.
I do think the ability to “jump to a section” helped some. I’m planning to practice more short form writing as I continue this blog, especially for my beautiful ADHDers out there because I’m going to be writing mostly for you (and me)!
And now with that out of the way…
Welcome to Part 2 of my new series on Symptoms of ADHD! Today we’ll be talking about Impulsivity. For each part I’ll be discussing one symptom of ADHD that you probably didn’t know about, and I’ll share some of my own experiences with you.
In Part 1 I covered five symptoms, due to my tendency to get over zealous with projects (thanks ADHD). So I would go check that out before reading this one.
You can Click Here to read it.
And remember, ADHD is a spectrum and you may not have all of these symptoms or you may experience them in varying degrees compared to another ADHDer.
Impulsivity is the tendency to speak or act on a whim.
When you were a kid this could have manifested itself as you blurting out answers in class instead of raising your hand. Maybe you were that kid who did full belly flops off the jungle gym without taking a moment to consider that landing face first on the ground would be painful. Or maybe you were like me and reacted to frustrating or embarrassing situations with sudden violence or a temper tantrum.
Quick story of impulsivity from my childhood:
I had a HUGE crush on this kid in my neighborhood named Shane. One day a bunch of the neighborhood kids (including Shane) were playing near my house, which didn’t happen very often so I was excited about this. I was off to the side with some of the other girls watching everyone play. At some point I must have told these girls about my crush, and one of them decided she was going to run over and ask Shane if he liked me back.
I remember feeling secretly excited, but more mortified than anything else. She ran over and talked to him, then came running back with the news that yes, my crush liked me. This filled me with even more excitement and embarrassment, and I think my little-kid ADHD brain had no idea how to handle such intense and conflicting feelings…
So what I did was immediately run full speed towards Shane, and upon reaching him I punched him as hard as I could in the back. He was obviously shocked by this sudden and confusing reaction, and he turned and ran all the way back to his house. I didn’t see my childhood crush again until my freshman year at a public high school when I walked up to my bus stop for the first time in my life.
The story makes me laugh now, but for many years after the incident I felt guilty and confused by it. I really didn’t understand why I did it. I didn’t know about ADHD and Impulsivity. All I knew was that my dream of my crush liking me back had come true, and for some reason I promptly decided to hurt and humiliate the poor boy. If the now grown-up Shane ever reads this, I’d like to formally apologize for my impulsive little-kid self.
Luckily I grew out of sudden violent reactions for the most part. As a teenager I did punch my fair share of holes in the walls though. My parents weren’t too happy about that. And after my dad died a couple years ago, the grieving process brought these tendencies back for a short time. Many items in my house ended up broken. But working with a therapist helped me work through that, thank goodness.
Some people grow out of Impulsivity as they come into adulthood, some people don’t. For some it just takes on new forms, like overspending or reckless driving. And I’m sure for some people it may even get worse with age.
Why are we so Impulsive?
For the ADHD brain the ability to stop and consider the consequences of our words or actions is literally impaired. This, by the way, is made worse by our trouble with Regulating Emotions (which we discussed in Part 1 if you missed it). But for now let me explain how this Impairment works.
There’s an area of your brain called the Thalamus.
This area of the brain controls Response Inhibition, which is basically the cognitive process that allows a person to respond appropriately to stimuli. It’s what allows us to practice Self Control.
For example: let’s say you desperately need to lose weight, but it’s your coworker’s birthday and the whole office is eating cake. The appropriate response would be for you to turn down the cake. The inappropriate response would be for you to say “F*** It” and eat the cake anyway, ignoring the consequences.
The Thalamus is a lot like a gate, sending signals to either stop or allow behaviors. When a red flag is detected by the brain, a warning signal is sent from the Thalamus to the Frontal Cortex. The Frontal Cortex is essentially the brain’s control center, and it handles things like emotional expression and problem solving.
Here’s the Dilemma:
In the ADHD brain, the Thalamus gate is broken.
So those signals to stop an inappropriate behavior have a lot more trouble getting through to your Frontal Cortex, where you handle the expression of your emotions and work on solving problems. This means that someone with ADHD might struggle with things like not eating cake when they’re trying to lose weight, road rage, impulsive spending, or belly flopping off a jungle gym (hopefully not as an adult).
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to learn self discipline.
It just means it doesn’t come as easily to your brain as it does for a ‘neurotypical’ brain. There are many things that can help you get better with this. You just need to experiment a bit and find what works for you.
For me, experimenting with different diet and lifestyle changes has helped a lot and getting back on medication helped tremendously. It’s been a lot of trial and error and I’ll probably never reach the end of this process, but I’m always getting better and that’s what really matters.
I tried the whole vegan thing only to find that it didn’t work at all for my body or my mind. After trying out a couple other options, I settled on the Ketogenic Lifestyle. I’ll probably be mentioning this a lot in the future, so I’ll go ahead and apologize for that now.
I feel annoyed when anyone gets preachy about anything, really. So I’d hate to come across that way. I only mention it because it has truly helped me with my ADHD and with my health in general.
Cognitively I feel much sharper, emotionally I feel more stable, and physically I’m way healthier and it shows. If you’re interested you can check out this Reddit thread where some other people are saying they had similar benefits, and also this Article about Keto and Psychiatric Disorders.
But of course, everyone is unique and what works for me may not work for you. Like I said, it’s a trial and error sort of thing. Just do some research and experiment with different stuff until you find something that works for you. And know that if you try something and it doesn’t work, that’s completely fine. You can try something else. No biggie.
Like with ADHD meds… I was so afraid of going back on medication because all the negative views and conflicting information out there. But when I did my own research, I felt better about at least trying it.
If medication is something you’ve been thinking about exploring but you’re afraid like I was, I wrote an article that might make you feel a little better about it. I share some of the research I found before making my decision, and I talk about my own ADHD story.
Welp, there you have it. That’s Part 2.
Part 3 will be published on July 20th and we’ll be talking about another ADHD symptom you probably weren’t aware of. Thanks for bearing with me while I figure out my writing style and blogging schedule. I’m sure the shorter articles will be easier for your ADHD brain and for mine! Be sure to sign up for the mailing list below so you can be notified when each part is out.
Until Next Time,
Keep Calm and Grow On
I’m assuming if you read this Article there’s a good chance that you’re an adult with ADHD?
If so, I’d love to invite you to join my new Facebook Support Group for Adult ADHDers just like you! It’s called ADHD All Growed Up (which is obviously a clever reference to both Rugrats and my Blog name)
If you want to learn more, check out the article I put out last week about it:
Article I put out last week about it
Or if you’re feeling Impulsive and just want to belly flop right in you can head on over to the group and introduce yourself:
Join the ADHD All Growed Up FB Group
Join the Conversation!
- How has Impulsivity affected you?
- As you’ve gotten older, has your impulsivity gone away, gotten worse or changed forms?