“Impulsivity” In Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)

“Impulsivity” In Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)

There are three sub-types of ADHD;  Primarily Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined.  While most people have a pretty clear understanding of inattention and hyperactivity, the terms “impulsive” or ”impulsivity” can be somewhat confusing.  These terms are often confused with “compulsive”, which is quite different.  Compulsion can be defined as a repetitive stereotyped act performed to relieve fear connected with an obsession.

In regard to ADHD, there are two forms of impulsivity: Behavioral Impulsivity and Cognitive Impulsivity.

Behavioral Impulsivity –Actions.  People with ADHD who have symptoms of behavioral impulsivity do not stop and think before they act.  No matter how many times they are told to “stop and think first” they are unable, in most cases, to exercise this type of forethought, or judgment.  They usually are not able to learn from their past mistakes.  They act on the first impulse that occurs to them.  This can be quite exasperating to their parents, teachers, and other caregivers (which may in itself further add to the problem).

These ADHD children often:

·       cut in line

·        can’t wait their turn

  • blurt out answers in class
  • speak when they’re supposed to be quiet
  • may show aggressive behaviors
  • are often too loud
  • sometimes fight

They can start a friendship or relationship, but it often fails as they blurt out the wrong thing at the wrong time.  This can also lead to isolation, as others don’t “get” them, which in turn inhibits the learning of other important social skills.

Cognitive Impulsivity –Thinking and Choices.  People with ADHD who have symptoms of cognitive impulsivity do a lot of guesswork.  Often, rather than thinking about an answer, these individuals will make a multiple number of guesses in a short period of time.  If you give them multiple choices orally, to a question, they will guess for the right answer very quickly…first one, then another, often back and forth…until you finally step in when and say, “That’s it” when they guess right.  This pattern only reinforces their guessing.

These individuals have a very limited problem solving strategy.  They are impaired in their ability to think the problem through.  They will usually just guess and let trial and error carry them through.  This not only tends to have a negative effect on how others perceive them, it also interferes with their ability to learn new material, and further develop more effective problem solving strategies.  If this disorder is not corrected, no amount of direction, encouragement, or discipline will change this inability.

Fortunately, both these problems, as well of the other sub-types of ADHD, can usually be corrected without medication.  Neurofeeback is a highly effective, drug-free, painless procedure, with no side effects, in which the individual learns to retrain the impulsive, hyperactive, and/or attention mechanisms of the brain.  Once treatment is complete, no further training is necessary.


Dr. Stephen A. Ferrari
Alta Neuro-Imaging Neurofeedback
1075 Yorba Place
Suite 105
Placentia, CA 92870

Website: www.ocbiofeedback.com

Orange County ADHD Treatment & ADHD Symptom Expert