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Real-World Strategies: “How I Stop Being So Impulsive”

Struggling to stop yourself from eating that third slice of pie, or buying that expensive gadget, or making that rude comment to your coworker? Impulsive behaviors (and their consequences) are a hallmark of ADHD. Here’s how readers rein themselves in when they feel on the verge of a poor decision.

A sign pointing in multiple directions, presenting a choice for someone who wants to stop being impulsive
Blurred tree background, sign pointing in 5 directions

> Reminding myself to stop and think. When I feel an impulse rise, I ask myself: Does this need to be said? Does this need to be said right now? Does this need to be said right now by me?
—An ADDitude Reader

> Allowing an alternative outlet for my impulses. For example, an alternative to interrupting conversations is to write the thought down (on paper or in a cell phone), or to have an object with you to remind you to not interrupt. I always have a water bottle with me. It’s hard to interrupt when your mouth is full of liquid, and it also acts as a fidget toy to keep me focused.
—Shaina, California

> When I get impulsive, I ask why: Why do you want that? Why are you moving everything off of your desk? Why are you gobbling your food?
—Jennifer, Mendham, New Jersey

[Self-Test: Could You Have Adult ADHD?]

> Avoiding the situations that lead to impulsive behaviors.
—Beth, Pennsylvania

> Daily mindfulness practice and reviewing things that need to be done. I choose one thing and follow through, no matter what.
—Bob, Arizona

> Get enough sleep. Think things through. Examine possible outcomes before you act. If you’re still not sure, ask someone you trust for feedback.
—Deleyne Wentz, North Logan, Utah

> Giving in once in a while to an indulgence helps. I struggle most with impulsive behaviors when I don’t allow myself any treats or purchases. As for blurting things out, cognitive behavioral therapy has taught me to stop, look at a possible behavior, and ask, “Is this effective?”
—An ADDitude Reader

[“The Moment I Knew It Was ADHD”]

> I sit on my hands. That reminds me not to talk, because, when I talk, my hands want to be in motion.
—Jennifer, Indiana

> I can’t count the number of strategies I have tried to reduce impulsive behaviors. I rely on a combination of strategies: When shopping, I always go with a written list, including a maximum spending budget, to ensure that I purchase the items I need. For other impulsive behavior, I use self-check questions that I created with a counselor years ago. They include: Is this healthy for me? Do I have the time and ability to do this? How will this affect my relationships/job/other important things in my life? and is this something that can be undone if I decide tomorrow that I no longer want it?
—Chelsea Belinsky, Newmarket, New Hampshire

> I give myself $20 each pay period for impulse buys.
—Kandy, Galva, Illinois

> I take herbal supplements or Ritalin, or a combination of the two, to remain focused and reduce my impulsivity.
—An ADDitude Reader

[“ADHD Makes Me Better at My Job”]

> I slowly count to 10 when I have an impulse to interrupt in meetings. I also created a mantra: Stop-Breathe-Think-Choose. I had business cards made up with this mantra, and I carry one in each pocket.
—Ann Schide, Ooltewah, Tennessee

> If I’m taking my medication (Adderall, two or three times daily,) I’m able to slow down and “play the tape all the way through,” so I can anticipate consequences of my actions, and determine whether they’re worth doing or not.
—An ADDitude Reader

> I overthink things before taking action. I review all the different outcomes, good and bad.
—Jessica Hubby, Ankeny, Iowa

> When I shop, I put an item in my cart and decide, as I near the cashier, if I still want it or not.
—Kate Clark, Jacksonville, Florida

> I adhere to a 24-hour rule. As an adult with ADHD, I use this rule to give me time to think about major decisions. This has saved me from over-committing my time and resources. It has also stopped me from sending off an angry email that might have cost me a relationship. When I tell people that I have a 24-hour rule, they usually say, “That’s a good idea. I should do that.”
—Leslie, Lakewood, Florida

> I write down talking points before going into a meeting.
—F. Lorde, California

> I use clinical hypnosis to help me from being impulsive. Recent research shows that hypnosis is effective in reducing impulsive behaviors.
—Maureen Turner, Burlington, Vermont

> Less coffee, deep breaths, good sleep.
—Denise S., Oregon

1 review

  1. While shopping online, I often leave my “shopping cart” overnight (while logged into their site, so I can go back to it later). If I “forget” to follow through the next day, or whenever, then I really don’t need the items. Surprisingly, on a few occasions I have actually been sent emails by the company “reminding me” to complete the purchase with an ADDITIONAL DISCOUNT!!! ….a little gold at the end of the ADD rainbow, eh!

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