Everyone has intrusive impulses sometimes. However, if you find yourself obsessing over them, it may indicate a problem. According to the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, “Impulsivity is strongly associated with substance use disorders (SUDs).” However, you can reduce the effects of impulsive thoughts or behaviors with the help of mental health professionals. Restoration Recovery Center offers personalized treatment services that provide clients with the tools they need to prevent or cope with impulsive behaviors.
Unhealthy Impulses and Substance Misuse
Most people who experience SUD participate in some form of compulsive behavior or thinking. According to the Surgeon General, SUD “is associated with changes in the function of brain circuits involved in pleasure (the reward system), learning, stress, decision making, and self-control.” Some substances, including opiates, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine, can affect a person’s control of intrusive impulsive behaviors. In addition, individuals who struggle with impulsivity have a higher risk of substance dependency and addiction.
A range of factors connects impulsivity and substance misuse, including:
- Physical changes in the body due to substance misuse that cause impulsive behaviors
- Impulsive behaviors can lead to changes in routine that contribute to the development of SUD
- Genetic and environmental factors increase a person’s risk of SUD and impulsive behaviors
- Cognitive or mental health issues can contribute to the development of SUD and impulsive behaviors
When Mental Health Disorders Co-Occur
Co-occurring mental health disorders that feature impulsivity also affect how well a person responds to treatment for SUD. Certain mental health disorders and their symptoms can increase impulsive thoughts and behaviors. The side effects and symptoms vary significantly between disorders. However, in most cases, the effects worsen over time if left unaddressed during rehabilitation and aftercare.
Common co-occurring disorders that affect impulse control include:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Bipolar disorder (BD)
- Anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Some personality disorders like antisocial personality disorder (APD)
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Restoration Recovery Center offers SUD and dual diagnosis treatment, including disorders involving compulsive and impulsive thoughts or behaviors.
How to Identify Maladaptive Impulses
To control thoughts and behaviors, you must know how to identify impulses, their underlying causes, and what causes them. You can learn to identify maladaptive impulses by doing the following:
- Asking your loved ones or people in your support system if they notice any impulsivity or obsessive behaviors
- Paying closer attention to unhealthy choices to determine what motivates them
- Listing unwanted behaviors or routines and linking them to specific impulses or obsessive thoughts
Some impulses are ingrained into everyday routines, which makes it difficult for people to spot them at first. However, an outside perspective and increased self-awareness make recognizing and preventing impulses easier.
3 Ways to “Tame Your Impulses” in Recovery
You can tame your impulses by learning to recognize, process, and control them. Below are three easy ways you can increase self-awareness and encourage healthier routines.
#1. Learn to Recognize Triggers
Impulses often have triggers that can cause intrusive thoughts and accompanying disruptive behaviors. A trigger sets off a chain reaction ending in a specific thought, behavior, or emotion. Sometimes triggers are not obvious, and a person needs to do the following to identify them:
- Write down ideas, behaviors, locations, experiences, emotions, and any external or internal stimuli experienced directly before impulses start
- Note any connections you notice between thoughts and physical sensations or behaviors
- Keep a daily journal that chronicles your general thoughts and actions throughout the day to determine if there is an underlying pattern.
It may take several weeks for you to notice a pattern and identify triggers. However, once you recognize them, you can use the resources at your disposal to prevent, avoid, or cope with them.
#2. Identify Underlying Motivations
Impulsivity often has an underlying motivation. Identifying that motivation can make it easier for you to find healthier ways to cope. For example, someone who repeatedly feels the impulse to overspend might be motivated by a temporary euphoria that reduces feelings of low self-esteem. Recognizing the motivation allows you to find healthier ways to improve self-esteem and positivity.
Some of the most common motivations behind impulsive behaviors include:
- Frustration with current life circumstances
- Fear of the unknown, failing at a goal, or consequences of past behaviors
- A desire to reduce anxiety, stress, of symptoms of mental health issues
#3. Pause Before Making Decisions
Impulses often cause risk-taking or unhealthy behaviors that increase a person’s stress levels. A few excellent ways to avoid following through with impulsive thoughts include:
- Mentally taking a step back
- Pausing and considering all the options and consequences before acting
- Practice acting with intent
Use your support system. If you feel uncertain about what choice to make, reach out and ask someone who has an outside perspective and your best interest at heart. Pausing and using your resources will give you time to recognize and avoid any potential issues caused by impulsive thoughts and behaviors.
Treatment Options for Impulsive Behaviors
Mental health treatment can help with various impulsive behaviors and disorders. Taming your impulses may require psychotherapy alongside other treatments like prescription medications or alternative holistic therapies. Restoration Recovery Center provides personalized treatment for clients with co-occurring disorders. We ensure that our clients have access to treatments that will help them heal. Impulsive behaviors and conditions do not have to stop you from successfully maintaining long-term Recovery from SUD.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can effectively treat maladaptive impulses that impact a person’s mental health. Many individuals with SUD struggle to avoid impulsive behaviors. In addition, co-occurring disorders that feature compulsions and impulsivity may worsen some symptoms of SUD, including cravings. Early intervention is essential to stop the damaging side effects of unhealthy impulses from affecting your recovery. Restoration Recovery Center offers programs that treat individuals struggling with co-occurring mental health disorders threatening their sobriety. We can help you find healthy coping mechanisms to reduce symptoms of various mental health disorders, including impulsive thoughts and behaviors. To learn more about our facility, programs, and services, call us today at (888) 290-0925.