You’ve seen it many times: children acting without giving much thought about what they’ll do next. In everybody’s eyes, it’s normal. Children will always have those moments when they can’t stop themselves and aren’t aware they’re acting on impulse.
For some kids, it’s a matter of maturity. You might witness behavior in kids that you believe should’ve ended long ago. For example, you’ll see a 6-year-old child acting up in the playground like an irritated 3-year-old without a milk bottle in hand, only because there’s no more extra place in the swing. But that doesn’t matter. Every child is different. They all develop at varying rates.
For adults, it’s human nature to be impulsive, too. You can sometimes say and do things you wish didn’t blurt out or happen at all. But like children, all adults are not the same. Some people are more impulsive than others. It seems like their “mental brakes” aren’t working properly.
Regular and frequent impulsiveness can lead to problems and regret. When it leads to self-harm or someone else is getting hurt, it could be a problem with self-control. Something more serious could be causing impulsive behavior.
If you think you’re impulsive and show signs of being easily distracted, frequently interrupting others, restlessness, and aggressive behavior, you might need help. Learn more about impulsive behavior in today’s article and how you can address it.
The definition of what constitutes impulsive behavior is historically inconsistent. It has been described in varying periods as a behavioral, cognitive, neuropsychological, or biopsychosocial disorder. However, recent studies have attempted to refine it. According to a 2013 published study in Science Direct, impulsiveness is a behavior that is inappropriate to a situation, unduly risky, prematurely expressed, and poorly conceived, resulting in negative consequences.
Because of the spontaneity of impulsive behavior, you may disregard how your actions affect those around you. It’s all about you, what’s happening here, and what you want to do about it now. If you have a consistent pattern of this behavior, it can affect your daily functioning.
Impulsive behavior varies broadly, but the most common are frequent outbursts, bingeing on food or activities, oversharing confidential information, escalating simple problems, quitting jobs or businesses quickly, and high-risk sex. If it leads to the destruction of property, physical violence, self-harm, and harm to others, it’s time to consider making some changes.
There’s no reasoning with someone who is acting out on impulsive behavior. You know this well. It’s your emotions that drive your behavior. In fact, you often act on your emotion before you realize what you’re actually feeling. It’s important, therefore, to understand them and prevent them from controlling your behavior. It’s important to function the way you should.
Cite a few examples of these impulsive moments in your head. You could have thrown a spatula towards a child who didn’t want to eat. You could have smacked your spouse when you found out there’s no more milk in the fridge. You didn’t know how to handle your emotions, and so, you simply reacted to what was happening, although unfortunately, violently.
A large part of your task to control your emotions is to recognize them at the moment. This can help the reactive part of your brain activate executive functioning, a set of mental skills that include flexible thinking, working memory, and self-control. When this is activated, you can better respond to what’s happening.
Therapy and Other Treatments
A huge part of managing impulsive behavior comprises treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) sessions. DBT focuses on building and developing skills that enable you to increase your thinking, minimizing impulsive behavior as a result. On the other hand, CBT focuses on what triggers your impulsive behavior and learning how to manage your responses to them.
Other treatments include yoga and medications. Yoga can help keep your mind calm, enabling you to identify situations that can force you to act impulsively and respond to them properly. PscyhCentral magazine emphasized that engaging in calming activities can help you control your impulses.
Meanwhile, medication-based treatments are primarily reserved for people with underlying mental health problems.
If you think you cannot manage your emotions and need professional help, ask your doctor about what treatment will suit you best.
You can also participate in group or family therapies. Joining group therapies can help you understand impulse control disorders more. You can also help others who are going through the same problems. Learning from each other’s experiences and coping efforts can help you identify effective treatments that you can include in your lifestyle.
When you’re well on your way to controlling your negative impulses, try to replace them with positive reactions. This will extend to the other areas of your life. You will become more confident to socialize, knowing you will not react in any violent way.