ADHD Symptoms in Adults

“ADHD Impulsivity Has Been a Deciding Factor in My Life… Seldom for the Best.”

ADHD impulsivity in real life may manifest as impulse buying, unsafe driving, rash communication, and career self-sabotage, among other self-defeating behaviors, according to the adults who answered our recent ADDitude reader survey.

Risk Return concept. Wooden block with text on table. Copy space
Risk Return concept. Wooden block with text on table. Copy space

Poor impulse control is a textbook symptom of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) that may seem obvious in children who jump without looking, speak without raising their hand, or react swiftly to emotional stimulation. In adults with ADHD, this symptom of ADHD impulsivity may be less glaring, yet no less perilous or impactful.

To better understand impulsivity in adulthood, we asked ADDitude readers, “Does your ADHD have a strong impulsivity component? If so, how has this affected your life? Share a story of a time when you acted on impulse, and the negative (or positive!) result.” Below, find relatable responses from other adults with ADHD; share your experiences in the Comments section below.

ADHD Impulsivity in Adults

“Impulsivity has been a deciding factor in my life many times, seldom for the best. Upon finding out I was pregnant when I was supposed to be physically unable to bear children, I quit my job and relocated to another country to start a family with the father, a man I had met online and had only spent 3 weeks with in real life. I went from being a television producer in Vegas to a farmer’s wife in Australia. He and I were like water and oil, but we stuck it out for 8 years because of our child, who is now 21 years old. I never got rich and famous, but it has certainly been an adventure.” – Tony

“My impulsivity has dangerously impacted my driving. I get impatient in traffic and fail to be aware of cars behind me or in the lane into which I intend to merge. Consequently, I have had numerous car accidents and ‘near misses’ with death.” – Anonymous

“After I was diagnosed with ADHD in my 40s, I realized the pattern of my impulsivity throughout my life; I could never stick with a hobby as a child, then in college I would instantly drop out of a course if I was bored or confused by the material. A few years ago, I changed jobs 8 times in under 2 years. It has taken me 35 years to slow down and ask for help when overwhelmed.” – Karen

[Download This Free Guide to ADHD in Adults]

“I impulsively spend money to buy countless organizing products into which I cram stuff, causing even more clutter. I don’t have the budget to buy them, but that doesn’t stop me. I hate how this makes me feel. I know how I want my home to look and feel – why do I feel like the purchases will fix things?” – Val

“In the few months leading up to my diagnosis, which was a period of tremendous upheaval and overwhelming symptoms, I got 8 new piercings in 3 months! All entirely spontaneous…” – Anonymous

“Online shopping, the occasional sugar binge, a handful of impulsive tattoos, and interrupting are how my impulsivity manifests. Impulsive speaking causes me the most problems; I blurt out inappropriate things and have been called ‘rude’ because of it.” – Kelly

“My impulsivity depends on how overwhelmed I am feeling by my own emotions. Once, after a period of depression, I wrote an entire book!” – Anonymous

[Read This Next: How to Hit Pause on ADHD Impulsivity]

“My impulsivity led me to fall for someone I shouldn’t have. I missed every single red flag that was glaringly obvious to everyone else. When the relationship ended, rejection sensitive dysphoria compounded my shame and shock at having thrown away my inhibitions so easily.” – Anonymous

“I have a bad online shopping habit where I look only at ‘for sale’ items, and when I see how affordable they are, I add more items to the cart. It, of course, adds up but I don’t think about it until I look at my bank account. I’m trying really hard to break this habit.” – Anonymous

“When my friend got married, I was so overcome with happiness right after the ceremony, that I jumped up to hug her and cut off her mother. It was so embarrassing. My impulsiveness is always putting me in these awkward situations.” – Anonymous

“My impulsivity has been my demise, primarily in work. I speak to colleagues and managers impulsively; I’m a reactor instead of an actor.” – Patty

“My girlfriend has ADHD and impulsively buys things we don’t need – it is very stressful and on the verge of hoarding. She is an ‘emotional shopper’ and only buys things when she is upset or stressed.” – Anonymous

ADHD Impulsivity in Real Life: Next Steps

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