• Unified Brain Health Care

Impulsivity: How to Identify and Control?

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

Dr. Porrselvi A.P., Founder and Cognitive Neuropsychologist, Unified Brain Health Care




Some children and adults are impulsive. They do not intend to be hurtful or rude. They have poor control over their emotions and behaviour. Impulse control disorder is a condition in which a child or an adult has trouble controlling emotions or behaviour. These behaviours can be hurtful, violate the rights of others or go against societal norms and the law.


If as children they are not taught to control their emotions and behaviours through behavioural management techniques and strategies, they grow up to be adults with difficulties in inter-personal relationships, in their career and often with the society. Some adults can develop poor impulse control in response to changes in their life or depending on their circumstances.


Some examples of behaviours that may indicate poor impulse control in children are:


· Speaking out of turn, Inability to wait for turn

· Quitting games abruptly over disagreements, Excessively Upset over losing a game

· Shoving in lines and cutting in front of others

· Jumping up from seat and interrupting class, Asking questions about irrelevant topics in class

. Daydreaming, Inability to maintain time control

. Messy play area, trouble cleaning up and organising

· Physically abusive behaviour towards family members

· Throwing/Breaking things in fits of emotions

· Hyperactive behaviour ("out of control", "naughty")

· Hypo-active behaviour ("lazy", "lethragic")

. Lying or other such deceptive and manipulative behaviours

· Personal boundary issues


Some tips to teach impulse control to children:


· Reduce clutter in the child’s space

.Teach them to count to ten/ thirty before answering/responding to any situation

· Make goals with the child about their behaviour

· Make a Responsibility Chart and use rewards

· Make a schedule for the child and stick to the routine

· Social stories with exaggerated storytelling to help child understand emotions

· Always explain situations before the child might encounter it e.g. house visiting- who will be there, who are they etc.

· Use a designated Control buddy e,g, a sibling or a friend or even a stuff toy


Some examples of behaviours that may indicate poor impulse control in adults are:


· Difficulty making plans

· Difficulty making decisions

· Frequently find themselves searching for important things- like keys, papers etc

· Trouble prioritizing tasks

· Poor emotional control with frequent outbursts and burn downs

· Trouble using a schedule or following a routine

· Find it difficult to be punctual

· Impulsive buying

· Their space can be either too organized or too cluttered.

· Trouble following through with plans

· Try to do too much at once and Have many unfinished projects

· Difficulty following a conversation without thinking of other things

· Easily frustrated and Can never seem to be satisfied

. Lying or other such deceptive and manipulative behaviours

· Spend a lot of time Daydreaming


Some tips for impulse control in adults:


· Count to ten/thirty or practise deep breathing before responding to any situation. If possible, put off the buying/responding to the next day or by a few hours.· Use a paper planner or calendar to keep track of obligations

· Set up a filing system to keep track of and manage mail and important papers

· Use highlighters and colourful sticky notes to make a visual organization system

· Use apps to stay organized.

· Set up calendar reminders on a phone or smartwatch

· Set up automatic payment plans for bills

· Brainstorm routines and tasks. Think of probable solutions and strategies to make decision-making less stressful and easier

· Think through and visualize the day or week ahead and predict any challenge that may arise

· Break down big tasks into smaller tasks and set goals for each of them with specific dates and timelines


Contact Us or Book an Appointment to know more about impulsivity or you are worried about your/you loved one's behaviour and how it is affecting relationships and everyday life. Contact Us or Book an Appointment immediately if your child has difficulty in controlling emotions or behaviour.


Unified Brain Health Care is one of a kind Neuro Rehabilitation Centre in Chennai for adults and children offering in person and online therapy in Cognitive Rehabilitation, Clinical Psychology, Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Clinical Nutrition, Career Counselling, Fitness Coaching and Educational Intervention. We also offer help for PCOS, care during pregnancy, post-pregnancy care for new moms, infant and early childhood stimulation, care for caregivers and promote holistic brain health.