Manage Adult ADHD Impulsivity

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Topic: Impulsivity. Why We’re More Impulsive And How ADHD Adults Can Manage It More Effectively. See the other Adult ADHD Issues.

Facilitator: Pete Quily

Thanks for Christopher Stanbury, Jean, and Trevor for taking notes.

September 3rd 2013 Meeting Notes for the Vancouver Adult ADD Support Group



Warm Up

1. Why are ADHD adults more impulsive than non ADDers?

2 What increases the chances of you acting / talking impulsively?

3. What reduces our chances of speaking or acting impulsively?

4. Pick an area where you have an impulsivity problem



Give two examples of how you learned to reduce your [negative] impulsivity in one or more areas of your life.

How did you learn to do it?

Split into groups of two people and discuss the above question.


1. Why are ADHD adults more impulsive than non ADDers?

Here we’re talking specifically impulsivity in a negative context, with negative outcomes. Positive impulsivity can be useful. I.e., creativity is impulsivity done right, etc, but we won’t focus on that here.

We are not always impulsive for the same reasons.

What makes it worse?

What will reduce the tendency to speak and act impulsively in a negative way/ impact?

Pick area where you perceive impulsivity in your life.

Take some of the ideas from here and make your own recipe for how you can create a plan to reduce your impulsivity

ADHD can be a competitive edge if managed properly.

Big difference between intelligent questioning, and reactionary questioning

Boundary issues. Basically have trouble saying ‘no’ and enforcing those nos.


Check out the Hunter Farmer Theory of ADD by Thom Hartman

Hunting for novelty, got to do it now or it won’t happen

If we set no boundaries we will tend to do whatever we are asked to do. I.e., people pleasing, which can be endlessly draining.

Lack of priorities, or too many priorities and difficulty prioritizing

Many ADHD negatives can be positive in the right circumstances

Many co-morbid (co-existing) conditions with ADHD i.e., depression, anxiety disorders, ocd, bipolar, personality disorders

Many problems with ADHD are common – but we do not all have all of them.

Medication rebound

More prone to brain fatigue – have less dopamine or use it up faster

ODD Oppositional Defiant Disorder. ADHD kids & adults have higher rates of it. It’s about resisting authority, don’t like being told what to do, and not shy of being vocal about it. Repeatedly and emphatically. In a counterproductive way.

Often we just don’t think about it. We don’t get the ‘big picture’.

Overly strong willed determination

Parts of our brain acts differently for us vs. non ADDers.

Sensation or stimulus seeking – stimulation

Set boundaries on others, and on yourselves.

Social trauma

The basic Neurobiology of ADHD (Basal ganglia, pre-frontal cortex, limbic system, neurotransmitters, etc.) predisposes us to impulsivity. Impulsivity is one of the 3 primary ADHD symptoms.

Trauma – Brain Development & Learning Conference – UBC by Dr. Adele Diamond, great conference

ADHD adults have higher rates of:

PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Past head history – i.e., concussion


Addiction self medicating in harmful way

We don’t manage our energy well – you need energy to do things, focus, to be less vulnerable to distraction

We’re not so good at stopping – doing whatever one is doing. A big problem with ADHD is learning to inhibit ourselves, learning to stop

Wired for new experiences – new is more interesting

Women are more generalists due to better multi-tasking someone claimed


2. What increases the chances of you acting / talking impulsively?

Anxiety. Adults with ADHD have higher rates of anxiety disorders and many of us have subclinical levels of anxiety

Being afraid to intelligently & effectively question the status quo / conventional wisdom / authority


Exercise is a stress reducer; it’s the #1 non medical way to deal with ADHD

Feeling overloaded then overwhelmed

Good book. What does everyone else know that I don’t?  Social skills for adults with ADHD by Michelle Novotoni

Improper alcohol / drug use or addictions, we are at higher risk of substance and behavioural addictions.

Independence vs. interdependence

Irritability, we’re more irritable, and have more mood swings

Lack of exercise

Lack of food, we forget to eat, forget to plan to eat or cook, shop regularly

Lack of our self awareness, we need greater calm vs hypervigilant, self awareness

Lack of planning

Lack of relaxation brain needs some breaks to refresh it

Lack of sleep is a major reason. Many ADHD adults have sleeping disorders and trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, and waking up.

Lack of water, dehydration

Less conscious of social cues

Less Presence

Low blood sugar. Often because we forget to eat or eat whatever is the closest and easiest, which is often junk food.

New social / work situations, stress goes up

Not asking for help i.e., the John Wayne Syndrome

Not good at self observation

Passionate / excited about something

Problems self regulating

Self-medicating with trouble, drama or conflict. Usually unconsciously, some ADHD adults do this to self medicate, since they boost dopamine.

Sleep deprivation can look like ADHD and is gasoline on ADHD symptoms

Social skills and communications problems

Stress and not managing well

The more aware or conscious we are, the less likely we are to be impulsive

Under stimulating environment


3. What reduces our chances of speaking or acting impulsively?

Adders frequently prefer direct social interaction. Often too direct for many. Not everyone does.

Also some cultures have different preferences around that. Americans are more comfortable with direct communication, Eastern Europeans even more so, Japanese prefer indirect. And even within countries, individuals preferences vary widely. So in an immigrant society, this is important to understand if you want to communicate effectively, and have good working and personal relationships

Be properly caffeinated / medicated

Clear the clutter

Direct versus indirect personality / culture

Direct: I don’t like it when you shout

Indirect: I am uncomfortable when you talk loudly

Do not take on too many tasks

Do not text while driving or talk while driving even hands free. It’s not the hands free part, it’s the distracted attention, talking on a cell phone hands or hands free increases your chance of an accident by 4 times. And adders are more likely to get traffic tickets & accidents so it maybe even higher for us.

Exercise in mindfulness

Breathe quickly for 15 seconds. How do you feel?

Breathe slowly for 45 seconds. How do you feel?

Schedule a slow breathing exercise for 2 minutes, x times a day- use an alarm to remind yourself to do it. Reduces your stress and increases your focus

Just noticing how you are breathing will make you less tense and impulsive

Find ways to become more conscious / present


If you don’t know the person you’re communicating with’s communication style, you can have a problem

Know when & where you’re vulnerable to impulsivity

Know your limits, experiment and measure results. I.e., how much attention do you really have for x type of task that you regularly do?

Know your problem areas then plan for them vs. being in denial or minimization about them

Learn social and communication skills, ADDers often have problems with them which leads to more relationship problems at work and in your personal life.


Mono-task sequentially for a set amount of time

Remove temptation

Respect your dopamine – know when it is running out, and when you need to refresh it

Think before you speak

Time frame depends on individual’s – sleep, dopamine, hydration, food intake, exercise etc

Use alarms or alarm clocks

Write thoughts, and especially possible to do tasks down. Carry around your cell phone for taking notes or a notepad and a pen. Highly reccommend moleskin notepads. Writing it down not only increasing remembering to do it, it reduces blurting out and interrupting people


4. Pick an area where you have an impulsivity problem

Get into pairs or threes. Ask your partner to pick one of their impuslivity problems and ask them

What of the above factors increases the problem?

What of the above factos might reduces the problem?

Create a plan

When and how will you remember to do it? Pick a date and time.

Discuss in pairs

Write it up

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