Impulsivity: An Introduction
Impulsivity is a personality trait commonly observed in both children and adults. Impulsivity is the tendency to act without any prior thinking, without worrying about the consequences or reactions to one’s action. Impulsivity has been associated with risky behavior.
Interestingly, people see impulsivity positively when the action or decision works in favor and negatively when it doesn’t.
According to a popular 1995 clinical psychological study, three major factors contribute to impulsivity:
- Acting instantaneously (spur of moment actions)
- Inattentiveness (not able to focus on the task)
- Not planning and thinking in advance
In children, the initial stages of impulsivity are considered quite common. The developing brains of children prevent them from thinking about consequences. Consistently levels of high impulsivity in adults and children may, however, be associated with mental health disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and substance abuse.
Benefits of Impulsiveness
- Impulsiveness can quickly help use opportunities that might not be available if you wait.
- Impulsiveness encourages creativity
- Impulsiveness can result in unexpected positive outcomes.
- Impulsive people are known to have a strength of urgency and passion for doing things.
Genetics And Its Effects On Impulsiveness
The HTR2A Gene
The HTR2A gene helps produce the 5-HT2A receptor (5-hydroxytryptamine receptor 2A). This receptor is found in various parts of the body, including the brain, stem cells, immune cells, and the heart.
This activated receptor causes psychotic health problems like depression, anxiety, and sleep issues.
rs6313 and rs6311
rs6313 and rs6311 are single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs in this gene. The T allele of this rs6313 the A allele of rs6311 are associated with lowered levels of impulsivity.
Non-Genetic Influences Affecting Levels Of Impulsivity
According to certain studies, men show higher levels of impulsivity than women. Men tend to enjoy the various traits of impulsivity like risk-taking, sensation seeking, and aggression more than women and are hence more impulsive.
A psychosocial experimental study analyzed the levels of impulsivity and sensation seeking in people of different age groups. The study concluded that impulsivity starts reducing from the age of 10.
Children and early teenagers show the highest levels of impulsivity. After 16, adolescents are able to control their impulsivity much better.
Exposure to Violence During Early Childhood
Injury to the Brain
The frontal lobes of the brain control impulsive behavior. When there is an injury to the brain that affects the frontal lobes, it can lead to changes in impulsive behavior.
Recommendations To Manage Impulsivity
Practice delayed gratification
Delayed gratification is resisting the temptation of getting something right away because of the promise of a bigger reward in the future. People with high levels of impulsivity suffer from the need for instant gratification (the need to get something or do something right away).
When you start enjoying the results of delayed gratification, the dire need to get something done instantly comes down. A 2002 study offered a group of students two kinds of incentives - a small incentive available right then and a bigger incentive available after a week.
Students who followed delayed gratification waited a week to pick the bigger incentive. The students who were unable to wait for the bigger award and were impulsive were found to be more associated with substance abuse problems.
Brain Training Exercises
Brain Training programs are usually designed to improve specific functionalities of the brain. You can use a mix of tools, exercises, and programs to improve impulse control, too. These are methods to help bring positive changes to a person’s behavioral traits without medicines.
**Cognitive Behavioral Training (CBT) Techniques
Another proven technique to help better impulse control is CBT. CBT techniques help people understand their triggers when it comes to impulsivity and provide alternative ways to handle urges and temptations. A trained CBT expert should be handling these interventions.
If impulsivity is a sign of mental health conditions like ADHD, substance abuse, Impulse-Control Disorder (ICD), or eating disorder, then medications that treat these conditions can help improve impulse control too.
- Impulsivity is a behavioral trait where the person acts on an impulse without prior thinking. Impulsivity is associated with risk-taking behavior and control disorders.
- In both children and adults, high levels of impulsivity can be associated with mental health conditions like ADHD, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder.
- Impulsivity affects other common behavioral traits like sensation seeking, Non-Suicidal Self-injury, and psychoticism.
- Changes in the HTR2A gene can increase or decrease a person’s level of impulsivity. This gene produces a receptor found in various parts of the body, including the brain, stem cells, immune cells, and the heart.
- Men are considered more impulsive than women. Impulsivity is the highest in children under the age of 10 and slowly decreases as the child grows.
- Exposure to violence in childhood is also a factor that can increase traits of impulsivity in adults like sensation-seeking and risk-taking behavior.
- Brain injuries can alter the behavior of the individual and increase or decrease impulsive behavior.
- Practicing delayed gratification and considering brain exercises and Cognitive Behavioral Training can all help build impulse control.
- If impulsivity is a result of conditions like ADHD or substance abuse, medications can help keep the symptoms controlled.