Recognizing impulsivity
Dr Jozelle Miller
August 17, 2021
Recognizing impulsivity

ACCORDING TO Medical Author, Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler, “Impulsivity is the tendency to act on impulse — that is, without forethought about the appropriateness or consequences of the action. A certain degree of impulsivity is common in children and even some young adults often display impulsivity of behavior. Only when present to excess and accompanied by problems with normal function is impulsivity considered abnormal in young children. Impulsivity can be manifested in an action or in interrupting a discussion, blurting out answers, or the inability to wait one’s turn at an activity. Impulsivity is often observed in those who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can affect adults as well as children and teens. Impulsivity is often accompanied by symptoms such as restlessness, hyperactivity, inattention, problems doing quiet activities, problems with executive function, talking excessively, and fidgeting.

Impulsivity can, less commonly, be related to medical problems that interfere with an individual’s cognitive function, such as stroke or dementia.”

Impulsivity goes beyond just making rash decisions. It can easily impede someone’s ability to live a normal life, where they can’t sustain focus and interest to be successful at goals set in life. The following is a test which will assist you in identifying whether you have the tendency to be impulsive in your life: For each of the following statements, please indicate whether it is generally TRUE or FALSE.

1. I will often say whatever comes into my head without thinking first.

2. I enjoy working out problems slowly and carefully.

3. I frequently make appointments without thinking about whether I will be able to keep them.

4. I frequently buy things without thinking about whether or not I can really afford them.

5. I often make up my mind without taking the time to consider the situation from all angles.

6. Often, I don’t spend enough time thinking over a situation before I act.

7. I often get into trouble because I don’t think before I act.

8. Many times the plans I make don’t work out because I haven’t gone over them carefully enough in advance.

9. I rarely get involved in projects without first considering the potential problems.

10. Before making any important decision, I carefully weigh the pros and cons.

11. I am good at careful reasoning.

12. I often say and do things without considering the consequences.

To calculate your score, add up the number of times you answered TRUE on items 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 12, and the number of times you answered FALSE on items 2, 9, 10 & 11. High scores are indicative of impulsivity. If your score is high, do not be dismayed as there may be a possibility that you are a ‘Functional Impulsive” person.

To further assess your level of functional impulsivity, you can also respond to the following statements:

1. I don’t like to make decisions quickly, even simple decisions such as choosing what to wear, or what to have for dinner.

2. I am good at taking advantage of unexpected opportunities, where you have to do something immediately or lose your chance.

3. Most of the time, I can put my thoughts into words very rapidly.

4. I am uncomfortable when I have to make up my mind rapidly.

5. I like to take part in really fast-paced conversations, where you don’t have much time to think before you speak.

6. I don’t like to do things quickly, even when I am doing something that is not very difficult.

7. I would enjoy working at a job that requires me to make a lot of split-second decisions.

8. I like sports and games in which you have to choose your next move very quickly.

9. I have often missed out on opportunities because I couldn’t make up my mind fast enough.

10. People have admired me because I can think quickly.

11. I try to avoid activities where you have to act without much time to think first.

(Next week we’ll look at causes of compulsive behaviour and what can be done to control it)