Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
September 12, 2021
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

What Does ADHD Impulsivity Look Like? 

Do you find that you often act without thinking? Do impulsive actions lead to regret or embarrassment later on? If so, then impulsive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may be the cause. Hyperactive and impulsive behaviors are some of the most common symptoms of ADHD. They can have a major impact on your life.

There are ways to treat impulsive behaviors in adults with ADHD. We will cover some information on how these treatments work as well as what impulsive behaviors look like. 

What is Impulsivity?

Impulsivity is the tendency to act on impulse without thinking first. Impulse is the sudden decision to do something because of an impulsive event or stimulus.

The impulsive action is often an impetuous reaction to a momentary state. A person with impulsive ADHD might feel as though they lose control of their impulses. This can result in actions that are not appropriate for the situation at hand. If people do not think before they act it can lead to problems.

They might get into a bad situation or have a problem with someone else because they didn’t think about what would happen.

Impulsive reactions are impetuous behaviors that can be characterized by acting without thinking. Impulsive ADHD is when people cannot control their thoughts and actions. When they do something, they feel like it will not happen again. They also get in trouble because their thoughts and actions are impulsive.

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a chronic condition. When people have ADHD, they can’t control impulsive behaviors. They can’t stay focused on tasks and pay attention.

People with ADHD have difficulty maintaining and developing friendships, and they are less mobile in life goals. When compared to their peers, people with ADHD may be classed as underachieving or underproductive.

The symptoms are present across all situations but are more pronounced in some environments than in others. It can reduce natural curiosity, which hampers learning potential in those areas. Mathematics skills being one example.

ADHD can manifest itself symptomatically in a child’s behavior. This can include mood swings, lack of impulsivity, oppositionality or aggression, and inattentiveness. The impulsive behaviors of ADHD present themselves as a lack of awareness.

A person with this condition may have thoughts that are not organized and they may do things without thinking. They can also be impulsive. That’s a risk for them.

They may become involved in difficulties like impulsive decision-making or taking ill-advised chances. This can be like climbing high structures without considering safety factors.

3 Types of ADHD

There are three types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These are Hyperactive and impulsive, inattentive, and combined.

Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD Type

Hyperactive impulsive ADHD is when you can’t pay attention and can’t stay in your seat. You drive unsafely and talk a lot. You interrupt people and fidget with your hands or feet. You also forget things that you’re asked to do, like putting away toys, and do dangerous things that could make you get hurt.

Inattentive ADHD Type

Inattentive ADHD impairs concentration and impulsive behaviors. These people are more distracted, disorganized, and procrastinate more than a typical individual. They show a lack of interest in daily activities. They might seem lazy or not make any effort to focus on the tasks at hand.

The person will likely be seen daydreaming throughout the day. They also have a difficult time completing tasks that require any sort of paying attention.

Combined ADHD Type

Combined type ADHD is a combination of both hyperactive ADHD and Inattentive ADHD.

How Are the 3 Types of ADHD Diagnosed?

The different types of ADHD are diagnosed by evaluating the patient’s symptoms. An early assessment may include family history, how the child learns and grows, medical history, and social development.

A psychiatrist will provide medical advice and give a treatment plan for adults and children. The doctor will also access you to make sure you do not suffer from other comorbid disorders.

Hyperactive and Impulsive

A diagnosis will be established if three or more of the following symptoms are present.

  • Having extreme difficulty inhibiting impulsive behaviors that result in negative consequences.
  • Impulsive behavior interfering with completing tasks
  • Hyperactivity.

Inattentive

Impulsivity is not required for diagnosis but at least six other specific DSM criteria must be met to diagnose inattentive type ADHD. People with ADHD have six out of nine symptoms. They include:

  • Sensory hypersensitivity
  • organizing tasks or activities
  • being unable to focus on a task for a long time without getting distracted by something else
  • impulsiveness
  • forgetfulness and carelessness.

Combined

The presence of six out of nine symptoms from both criteria lists for inattentive and impulsive ADHD types is required for diagnosis.

Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD Symptoms

  • Fidgets or squirms.
  • Unable to stay seated.
  • Runs about or climbs where it is inappropriate.
  • Unable to relax during leisure time.
  • Always has to be moving or “on the go”.
  • Excessively talkative.
  • Blurts out an answer, even before the other person is done speaking.
  • Has difficulty waiting for their turn.
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others.

Inattentive ADHD Symptoms

  • Doesn’t pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school or job tasks.
  • Trouble paying attention to tasks or hobbies.
  • When addressed, he/she does not appear to listen.
  • Inattentiveness to instructions and a failure to finish schoolwork, chores, or employment responsibilities
  • Organizes work and tasks poorly.
  • Tasks that need sustained mental effort are avoided or disliked.
  • Cannot maintain track of objects required for activities or day-to-day function.
  • Can be distracted easily
  • Forgets daily tasks.

Combined ADHD Symptoms

Someone with ADHD may have both Hyperactive-Impulsive and Inattentive symptoms. If so, they will be labeled as having a Combination form of the disease.

What Does the Hyperactive & Impulsive ADHD Type Look Like in Daily Life?

For someone with impulsive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it can be difficult to stay still. They may fidget or squirm in their seat or have a hard time sitting still.

They may be restless and always want to be on the go. They might have trouble waiting their turn at school or other social settings. Here are some more common issues:

Fidgeting & Squirming

One ADHD difficulty is not being able to sit still. You might have trouble focusing on your responsibilities if you are fidgety and can’t sit in one place for long.

Restlessness

One difficulty associated with ADHD is being unable to sit still. It’s difficult to stay concentrated on things if you’re fidgety and can’t sit for very long periods of time.

Difficulty Staying Quiet 

People with impulsive ADHD have a hard time staying quiet. They may struggle to filter impulsive thoughts. An overactive mind that is unable to filter thoughts may lead to frequent distractions and impulsive reactions.

Excessive Talking 

They might interrupt others or talk excessively. This can be a challenge for parents, teachers, spouses and everyone who interacts with impulsive ADHD kids.

Hyperactive Tendencies

A child with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is always moving around or doing something. They move a lot when they are not doing anything. Sometimes they jump, bend, or skip.

Impulsive Reactions

Lack of impulse control means that a person with ADHD will act without thinking first. This behavior is highly likely to continue into adulthood. People with symptoms of impulsivity often:

  • Are impatient and get annoyed when they have to wait their turn.
  • Blurt out answers before their questions are finished.
  • Interrupt or intrude on others.

Struggles to Wait Their Turn

The impulsive reactions that people with ADHD suffer from can also cause them to not be patient. They constantly move about as a result of their impetuous behavior and are unable to stand in one location for an extended period.

Disruptive

People with ADHD are often impulsive and hyperactive, which can contribute to being disruptive. They might talk out of turn, interrupt people or can’t sit still for quiet activities.

Inability to Filter Thoughts 

People with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD have a difficult time controlling their thoughts and urges. They might offer unneeded information, which can limit social interactions. This is because they cannot control what they say and do.

Frequent Interruption

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD means that a child will often interrupt people. They might take too much space, intrude on games and activities, and use other people’s belongings without asking first. This happens both in school and when they are playing with their friends.

What Causes Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

People with Hyperactivity Impulsive ADHD have an imbalance in some important brain chemicals. This is related to the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine.

Norepinephrine is responsible for regulating our attention and impulsive reactions. People with impulsive ADHD often report that their thoughts race and they have a very difficult time staying on task.

ADHD Treatments

ADHD treatments can help to manage these impulsive symptoms which may lead to better success in life. There is usually an initial assessment. The information collected will include:

Impulsivity is not required for diagnosis. At least six other specific DSM-5 criteria must be met to diagnose impulsion-inattentive type ADHD. These include any six of the nine features:

  • Sensory hypersensitivity
  • Organizing activities or tasks
  • Unable to maintain attention
  • Easily distracted by external stimuli and so on.

Impulsiveness, forgetfulness, and carelessness are all examples of this.

Medication 

Medication is a pharmaceutical drug that is designed to treat certain impulsive behaviors. A doctor will prescribe the right medication for each individual based on their specific symptoms.

There are many different impulsive ADHD medications available on the market. SSRIs and TCAs can help reduce impulsive behavior. They do this by boosting the levels of specific neurotransmitters in the brain. The most common type is Ritalin.

People react differently to medication. Some people will have side effects and others will not. People with ADHD might take Adderall or Vyvanse.

For impulsive ADHD inattentive types, the doctor may recommend stimulant medication. For the hyperactive-impulsive type, behavioral therapy or a non-stimulant medication may be recommended. For the combined type, both behavioral therapy and stimulant medicine are offered.

If you are taking prescription ADHD medication, it is important to follow the instructions of your impulsive ADHD doctor.

If you have ADHD and need impulsive medication, a doctor can help. It is difficult to find the right impulsive medication, but doctors will try to do that for you. It is always best to talk with your doctor before stopping any impulsive ADHD medication.

Supplements

There are many supplements that can help with ADHD. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Nutritional Supplements. Scientists think that ADHD might be caused by low levels of certain chemicals. These are serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine. It’s possible that nutritional supplements containing these substances could improve impulsive behavior.
  • Omega-three Fatty Acids. Eicosapentaenoic acid and Docosahexaenoic acid, are types of omega-three fatty acids found in fish oil. Researchers have found that people with low levels of DHA are more likely to have behaviors that are impulsive. That might be why people with ADHD might benefit from taking fish oil.
  • Acetyl L-Carnitine. This supplement is made up of a substance that naturally occurs in the body and plays an important role in converting fat into energy. Low levels of acetyl l carnitine have been linked to impulsive behavior, which might imply that taking this pill may help.
  • Green Tea Extract. Some experts believe that impulsive behavior is connected to low dopamine levels. Green tea extract supplements may help some ADHD patients who take stimulant medications. The evidence is still inconclusive at present time.
  • Magnesium. People with impulsive behavior may have low levels of magnesium in their body. Some people with impulsive behavior might find that taking magnesium supplements can help. This will boost the levels of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These are important for thinking and moods.

Therapy

Behavior therapy has been used to help those with ADHD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that helps people change their thoughts and behaviors.

Acceptance and commitment therapy is another kind of counseling that teaches people how to deal with urges. Mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy teaches people how to handle distractions and impulsive desires.

Other Natural Remedies for ADHD

There are many natural ways that you can address impulsive ADHD. One of the most popular ones is to get active. Exercise can help some symptoms like impulsivity, hyperactivity, and lack of focus.

You can also do breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation. These exercises will help by allowing your mind to be calmer and quieter.

Your diet may also be a way to help with ADHD symptoms.

Final Thoughts

ADHD is a very complex condition, and the symptoms can vary depending on the individual. It’s important to note that not all people who have ADHD will exhibit impulsiveness as one of their primary symptoms. For those with this symptom, it may be helpful to work with an experienced medical professional or mental health specialist.

There are many different treatment options available for impulsive-type behaviors like these. Our team provides professional consultations for a variety of mental health concerns—from diagnosis to drug management and therapy sessions. Feel free to get in touch.

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