A Guide to Impulse Control for Adults with ADHD

Impulsivity is one of the most common symptoms of ADHD. It’s also one of the most difficult to manage.


While any adult might sometimes act without thinking, it’s especially troublesome for those with ADHD. That’s partly because of changes in your brain. Research has found that there may be differences in the thalamus area of your brain that controls response inhibition, making it more difficult for you to stop yourself quickly.


It’s a big deal because impulsivity can disrupt your life in many ways. You may also be judged more harshly as you grow older for behavior that seems inappropriate in the workplace or social settings.


How can you bring your impulses under control? Try this guide for preventing and dealing with daily challenges.


Being Proactive


An angry outburst or tactless remark could damage your relationships or career. Some simple precautions can help you to prevent many risky situations.


Try these strategies:


  1. Establish routines. It’s easier to respond skillfully if you know what to expect. Some surprises are unavoidable but stick to a consistent schedule as much as possible. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Designate specific hours for meals, work, and chores.
  2. Transition gradually. Switching from one activity to another can be stressful when you have ADHD. Try to relax and clear your mind in between meetings and errands. Go for a walk or drink a cup of tea.
  3. Create barriers. Protect yourself from destructive behavior. Leave your credit cards home if you tend to spend too much. Keep junk food out of your kitchen if you’re prone to emotional overeating.
  4. Practice self-care. You have more self-control when you stay fit. Eat nutritious whole foods, exercise regularly, and sleep well.
  5. Seek support. Let your family and friends know how they can help you. Maybe there's a coworker you trust who can give you constructive feedback about habits that may be holding you back.
  6. Take your medication. Any coping strategy will be more effective if you follow your doctor’s recommendations. Most adults with ADHD need to take medication at least temporarily.


Training Your Brain for Greater Power


You can train your brain to achieve greater control over your thoughts and actions.


These techniques will help:


  1. Slow down. Resist the urge to rush. Slowing down reduces stress and allows you to make smarter decisions. Shorten your to-do list and focus on one thing at a time.
  2. Take time for quiet reflection. Even a few minutes of quiet contemplation can help you to feel more centered.
  3. Breathe deeply. Some studies have found that breathing exercises can help fight impulsivity and other ADHD symptoms by balancing your autonomic nervous system. Take a class or buy a book to learn different techniques.
  4. Examine your motives. It might help to think about the purpose behind your actions. Ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish. You may discover more effective options.
  5. Post reminders. Keep yourself on track with notes and messages about details you sometimes forget. You might put a little sign inside a desk drawer that prompts you to count to ten before reacting.
  6. Use your self-talk. Your inner dialogue can be a powerful tool as well. Be sure to praise yourself for the things you’re doing well and give yourself credit for making an effort.


Remember that acting on impulse can sometimes have advantages too. Spontaneity reduces stress and enables you to be more flexible and creative. Finding a healthy balance will help you to manage your ADHD symptoms and achieve greater success.


Want additional help, tools and strategies to help with impulse control?


Reach out for a free consultation call for guidance and accountability.


  • Annie M Henderson

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