Benefit in the Long Term by Delaying Impulses in Adult ADHD
Posted Mar 11 2011 7:11pm
I bought Dr. Russell Barkley's " Taking Charge of Adult A.D.H.D." recently, and I want to recommend it. It is a terrific read - I'm finding it to be extremely practical and helpful. He writes how fundamentally there is a diminished ability to control impulses with ADHD. He presents several principles and practical methods to address ADHD symptoms. One principle is to "Stop the Action". Here, ADHDers should put some delay or obstacle between an impulse and subsequent action or comment, thus allowing the executive region of the brain to fire up and contribute to the thought process, thereby enabling verbal and non-verbal working memory to kick in and help find a socially acceptable way to moderate impulses.
The trouble with ADHD is that planning and reflective thinking ('executive thought processes' which take place in the orbitofrontal cortex ) is often bypassed, leading to impulsive actions, as opposed to preplanned, consciously moderated actions. This may be due to neurological structural differences in the orbitofrontal cortex of ADHD brains.
So one method of putting a delay or obstacle between an impulse and subsequent action or comment is to gently bite my tongue or place a finger over my mouth (while looking thoughtful). I reason that it is better for me to be seen as a bit of an odd duck constantly biting my tongue or placing a finger over my mouth during a conversation or meeting, than to be viewed as someone who says something impulsive - albeit possibly true and incisive - but ends up distancing or alienating the person who I am addressing, thereby negatively affecting my relationships.
Another method to help insert executive thought moderation into the 'impulsive path' - which an ADHD brain is highly geared towards - is to quietly talk through the task in which you are currently engaged (like writing a blog post, or planning an appointment or meeting), visualize next steps, and recall previous similar circumstances either earlier performed by oneself, or seen performed by someone else. If you are shy about talking out loud, you could stick one of those blue-tooth headsets on your ear and make it seem like you're on a phone call... or just quietly mutter to yourself. Again, better to be seen as someone who talks to themselves (everyone does it!), than to be regarded as an impulsive, rude or awkward person.
This method of stopping to think and to verbalize your recall and planning not only helps you to establish a repertoire of working memories (in which you are likely deficient, as an ADHD Adult) which will help you in the future to delay impulses, it also helps you to gain access to memories in the moment that will help you perform in a way that will benefit you in the long term.
By using this method, you improve your chances of gaining long term benefits and diminishing the effects of disruption, discomfort, and interpersonal troubles which result from acting upon your impulses.