Can’t Control Impulses? Impulse Control Activities For Adults.
Do You Find It Hard To Control Impulsive Behavior?
If we have suffered severe childhood trauma which has led us to develop borderline personality disorder/BPD (click here to read my article on the link between childhood trauma and BPD) one of the most harmful symptoms we suffer may be a grossly impaired ability to control impulsive behaviour.
The kinds of self-destructive, impulsive behaviours that an individual suffering from BPD may experience are :
– reckless driving
– binge eating
– reckless sex (e.g. promiscuous unprotected sex) – click here to read my article on this)
– substance abuse
Often, people with BPD will give in to such impulsive activities in a desperate attempt to fill a profound sense of inner emptiness and desolation.
IMPULSE CONTROL ACTIVITIES FOR ADULTS :
Three methods often recommended by psychologists to help us control impulsive behaviour:
Let’s look at each of these in turn:
1) REFLECTION – often, if we carry out an impulsive act, we deeply regret it the next day and are filled with a deep sense of shame and despair.
We can actually use this to our advantage by reflecting on such feelings we are likely to experience BEFORE we indulge ourselves in the impulsive behaviour; hopefully, through such anticipation of how we will feel later, we are less inclined to go ahead and carry the impulsive behaviour out.
In order to utilize this strategy most effectively, many people find it very helpful to write out the following four questions on a piece of paper and then carry it around with them (e.g. in a wallet or handbag etc.), for instant reference should the need arise!
These four questions are as follows :
a) How important to me is it that I act out this impulsive act in the great scheme of things?
b) How will I feel about having carried it out tomorrow?
c) How will I feel tomorrow if I DO NOT carry out the behaviour?
d) If I indulge in the behaviour, what are the likely long-term consequences?
2) DELAY – an alternative strategy is to DELAY acting upon our impulses. For example, if we have the urge to do something that is likely to be self-destructive, such as gambling, we may experiment by delaying doing it by, say, an hour.
Then, next time, we can delay by an hour and a half, then, the time after that, by two hours…and so on…and so on…
This actually strengthens our ability to delay gratification and resist potentially harmful impulses (by strengthening relevant neurological pathways in the brain).
The goal is to strengthen this ability to such a degree that, eventually, we find it no harder to control our impulses than does the average person.
3) DISTRACTION – the third strategy entails distracting ourselves from our impulsive feelings. This method works best if we plan in advance what we might do to divert ourselves from our potentially self-destructive urges, should they arise.
Of course, chosen distractions will vary from person to person; however, I provide some examples below:
– home exercises
– phoning a friend
– taking up a hobby which we find both interesting and enjoyable
ALTERNATIVE BEHAVIOURS :
Some people with BPD are sensation/thrill-seekers as they have a need to compensate for inner feelings of emptiness (see above) and this has led to their impulsive, self-destructive behaviours. More healthy (yet still exciting) behaviours which may act as alternatives (given correct training and supervision) include :
– bungee jumping
– sky diving
– mountain climbing
– rock climbing
– extreme sports
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive and different individuals will, no doubt, find activities most appropriate to them.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).