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Chronic Impulsivity | Don’t Let It Overcome You!

therapy for compulsive disorders with Carolina Counseling Services North Fayetteville Office Fayetteville NC

Chronic Impulsivity | Don’t Let It Overcome You!


Spontaneity is natural, and it can be fun. It is something that a lot of people do from time to time, even cautious folks. It can be an indulgence as it breaks the monotony and injects fun in your otherwise routine and predictable life. Making quick decisions can be useful, even life-saving when the action is necessary during emergencies, but not always. Spontaneity can also usher troubles when it happens with frequency and when the lack of self-regulation is excessive. This is the case with “chronic impulsivity.”

There is but a thin line that divides the two. Spontaneity precariously approaches the realm of chronic impulsivity when making hasty decisions and/or actions becomes the rule rather than an exception in your life. Chronic impulsivity is “bad news” because it isn’t a product of logical thinking. Rather, it is based on an irresistible urge or a compulsion. Thus, the usual consequence can compromise your long-term goals while contributing to your feelings of distress, frustration, even anger and guilt.

One example of chronic impulsivity that many people can identify with is overspending or being a “shopaholic.” It is technically referred as “oniomania” or “compulsive buying disorder” (CBD) by experts. Not every “shopping spree” is triggered by CBD, but the behavior is not just triggered by simple materialism or a whimsical desire if it is happening with frequency. If the behavior is satisfying and lifting your self-esteem or it is bringing you troubles, it can be a symptom of a behavioral issue. It is best that you have the symptom assessed, so it can be addressed before worse things happen.


Chronic Impulsivity: Under the Lens

What is “chronic impulsivity?” The term “impulsivity” refers to the inclination to act swiftly, often without any second thought or without discerning the consequences of one’s words or actions. “Chronic” implies that it is lingering or happening with constancy. According to Open Path Collective, chronic impulsivity can “… take form as an inability to contain immediate reactions or having trouble concentrating. Impulsiveness results in it being difficult to consider the consequences of actions, completing tasks quietly, or not interrupting conversation.”

Occasional spontaneity is natural for adults. Among young people, spontaneity or impulsivity is a common trait because of their immature neuronal connections, which is why their childish ways and thinking often get them into trouble. People develop the ability to improve self-regulation/self-discipline with age and as they learn to comprehend the impact of the negative aftermaths in their lives. Hence, adults are expected to have better impulse regulation to think or weigh the effects of their actions or decisions first before saying or doing something.

Some classic illustrations of chronic impulsivity are binge eating, aggressive behavior and, of course, impulsive spending/buying. As a disorder in the form of CBD, studies reveal that it isn’t a rare condition. Unfortunately, many people think that it isn’t something to worry about. The truth is, like any disorder, CBD can disrupt life. However, like other emotional or behavioral conditions, it is treatable. Being familiar with the signs and symptoms of chronic impulsivity can help you recognize the condition to be able to seek help at the right time.


Chronic Impulsivity Isn’t a Simple Problem

Becoming a “shopaholic” is a huge problem in the United States. According to World Psychiatry, about 5.8 percent of the population are Shopaholics. This isn’t a minor concern, especially if the underlying issue is chronic impulsivity. As previously highlighted, chronic impulsivity isn’t a standard of healthy behavior. Experts consider it as a form of “addiction” that is stimulated when the level of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone in the brain, is low. Similar to addiction, a compulsive behavior, such as a buying spree, can lead to the active synthesis and secretion of more serotonin to satisfy the pang for spending/buying.

Chronic impulsivity deserves attention because it is a growing social concern. The issue is so huge, being a shopaholic, is just the “tip of the iceberg.” It is linked to many other, bigger issues. Several studies reveal that it is associated with other emotional conditions, such as mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder), eating disorders, as well as varied forms of disruptive anxiety, and substance abuse. Each of these is a potential major issue that can disrupt life, health and relationships.

Its aftermaths are correspondingly extensive. In particular, innumerable people have fallen prey to astounding loans, credit card debts, and financial troubles because of an irrepressible urge to spend. The buck doesn’t stop here. Along with the financial quandary, and if the behavior is a symptom of a more serious emotional condition, it may also shatter your family and relationships and affect many other aspects of your life, including your career/job or education.


More Troublesome “Spur of the Moment” Aftermaths

Unable to restrain the urge to do things without thinking, the possible risks are beyond imagination. There is always the possibility of inappropriate behaviors that can result in dire consequences. Unkind words can be uttered, so that relationships are damaged, and rifts are created. Compulsive buying can destabilize family finances and goals. Binge eating can ruin diets that may have a critical impact on health. There are many other possibilities. “Spur of the moment” decisions are often destructive in the long run.


Being spontaneous can be troublesome when it is chronically ruling your life.  When your impulses are unrestrained, the aftermaths can pose harm to you and the people you care about. Untreated, the condition can have continuing detrimental effects on various aspects of life, leading to:


  • Poor performance in the school
  • Adversity in job or career endeavors
  • Excessive struggle in starting and sustaining healthy relationships
  • Engaging in self-harm
  • Skirmishes with the law due to unlawful offenses
  • Low self-esteem
  • Inability to concentrate/focus
  • Self-injuring behaviors and/or thoughts


Chronic impulsivity may also give rise to accidents, injuries and/or serious medical issues like frequent tension headaches, increased heart and pulse rates, and muscle tensions. It can lead to poor focus and the inability to complete tasks or achieve specific goals on time. There is also a higher risk that chronic impulsivity may breed other emotional and behavioral conditions. These are the reasons why it must be addressed as soon as the symptoms are recognized.


Are You Gripped with Chronic Impulsivity?

Just because you gave in to a whimsical urge doesn’t mean you are gripped with the condition. It is okay to be spontaneous from time to time but beware of chronic impulsivity. How do you know if you need professional help?

If compulsive decisions and actions are becoming a habit, it would be good to give the symptoms a second look. If the outcomes or aftermaths are often undesirable, even disastrous, be warned that these can reinforce chronic impulsivity. The signs and symptoms are never the same for two individuals, being influenced by many factors such as age, gender, cultural background, education, personality, and preferences.

People gripped with this condition have difficulty reining in their irresistible urges. There is a strong tendency to succumb to substance abuse. Other manifestations include anger, disruptive behavior, boredom, difficulty in maintaining relationships, poor focus, disregard for outcomes, lack of patience, and engaging in risky behavior.


Counseling Can Free You from the Grip of Chronic Impulsivity

Chronic impulsivity generally leads to disappointing outcomes. Whimsical decisions can hurt you and those whom you deeply care about. No matter how disappointing the aftermaths can be, however, it isn’t easy to curb. If it is easy to restrain, then there should be no shopaholics in dire straits because of deep financial trouble and shattered trusts. Regretting your actions or words won’t solve anything, but therapy can. 

Therapy in the hands of an experienced counselor/therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC can help you escape the grip of chronic impulsivity. It can help you cultivate the important skills necessary in protecting your relationships and in ceasing your “wild” impulses. The therapist contracted with CCS can help in modifying your responses/behaviors and in transforming the chronic impulsivity challenges into opportunities.

The urge is powerful because, like addiction it is dictated by certain brain chemicals. There is a sense of pleasure and satisfaction as the urge is allowed to carry on unbridled. Though there is no specific cure for the condition, there is a way to tame chronic impulsivity and all the serious complications and the repercussions it brings. Regulate your recklessness. Hone your abilities for self-regulation or self-discipline. How? Call Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC. It is a good way to start.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Fayetteville, NC (North)

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  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

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