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Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist | PSY 22022

Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D.

impulsivity disorder
Impulsive Behavior and Developing a Red Flag Warning System

As adolescents and teenagers, the majority of us have made our fair share of impulsive decisions. This is, of course, completely natural. And most of us outgrow this to develop rational and calm decision-making procedures.

But for others, impulsivity may be a lasting thing, and it can be tough to deal with, especially when it comes to important decisions in your life. In this article, we’ll discuss impulsivity disorder, why it’s harmful, and how to develop a red flag system so you can exercise good control over your impulses.

What Is Impulsivity Disorder?

Impulsivity disorder is also known as impulse-control disorder (ICD). As the name suggests, the disorder is characterized by decisions that are made on impulse, instead of with reflection and thought.

While you see this in younger people, they usually develop the necessary skills to stop impulsivity and make choices with better outcomes. Even normal functioning adults may make impulsive decisions at times; this is what makes us human.

However, if there is an excess of impulsive decisions and it’s having an impact on your life, you may have an impulsivity disorder.

Why Is Impulsivity Harmful?

Impulsivity is harmful because it has the potential to have detrimental effects on all aspects of your life. For instance, you may put your health at risk through impulsive drug or sexual choices. Or you may put yourself into financial ruin by impulsive shopping or investing.

You can also make irrational decisions in your relationships, such as cutting off contact with your father over a small disagreement or cheating on your wife because she’s annoyed you with something.

As you can see, acting on impulse may seem like an excellent solution in the short term, but can cause real harm in the long term. While some of your loved ones will understand and empathize with your impulsivity disorder, others won’t. And even if they do, over time, it can wear them down emotionally, causing irreparable damage in your relationships.

How to Develop a Red Flag System

It may be tempting to ignore the red flags signifying your impulsivity, but in the long run, it has a detrimental effect on both yourself and your loved ones. You may have already recognized signs of your impulsivity, but aren’t sure how to handle it. Here’s how to develop a red flag system so your decisions don’t run unchecked.

Don’t Ignore Your Emotions

Many people who are impulsive have emotions that are very intense; this is why they make knee-jerk decisions. Since you may have made impulsive decisions in the past based on your emotions, you may think that by ignoring them, you can get your impulsivity under control.

But the opposite is true. If you ignore your emotions and let them bottle up, you’re just postponing the inevitable. Sooner or later, your emotions will come out, and you’ll have a higher chance of acting impulsively.

That Doesn’t Mean Give into Your Emotions

Listening to your emotions doesn’t necessarily mean you should give into them. Instead, acknowledge how you feel, and apply some logic to the decision you’re considering.

For example, if your husband’s said something to make you angry, your gut reaction is to lash out in anger and threaten to punish him by cheating. But is that something that’s constructive? It may tear apart the trust you’ve worked so hard to establish in your relationship.

Instead, you can tell him you’re feeling upset because of what he’s said, and why. Then you can work through it together so both of you can avoid this situation in the future.

Give It Some Time and Cool Off

If you’re upset about something, it might be tempting to visit the casino for a gambling spree or the shopping mall for retail therapy. But either action can be financially damaging.

Try finding something that’s healthy and free to do, such as a brisk walk in the neighborhood. After you’ve had some time to cool off, then you can rethink going to the casino or shopping mall. It may be best to avoid any of your impulsive actions for a little bit since it’ll be easy to “relapse” into the actions when you place yourself in the environment.

Seek Professional Therapy

Even if you think you have your impulsivity under control, it can still be beneficial to seek professional therapy. Your therapist can talk with you about what triggers your impulsive behaviors and how you currently handle it.

Together, you can work through emotional issues to get better control over your disorder. Also, professionally trained therapists can give you exercises and tools to deal with impulsivity in the moment so you have a higher chance of overcoming it.

You should also consider bringing your spouse or family members into therapy with you. They can understand you better and the therapist can also teach them ways to pump the breaks whenever your disorder flares up. This can help you build a stronger support system that you can rely on when you are at your worst.

Handle Impulsivity Effectively

Being diagnosed with an impulsivity disorder may seem devastating, but it’s not the end of the world. Recognizing you have a problem is the first and most important step, so if you acknowledge and embrace your impulsivity disorder, that’s a huge obstacle overcome.

With professional therapy and a good support system from your family and friends, you can learn to manage your disorder and lead a normal and healthy life. You won’t have to let your impulsivity define you anymore.

If you need some help handling impulsivity in either your life or your loved ones’, please make an appointment with us today.

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