Adult ADHD and Beneficial Impulsivity

February 17, 2014 Elizabeth Prager

I had a really fun lecture recently about evidence-based practices and spinal dysfunctions and it led me to believe that having impulsive thoughts aren't always necessarily bad. Sometimes impulsive thoughts can be beneficial - such is true of medial diagnoses. You may say, "Yeah, yeah, Liz. Sure, saying that impulsive comment to my wife last night was 'beneficial' for me." What would I say back? I think the trick is to target impulsivity - to know when to give into it and when to lose it.

Beneficial Impulsivity in Medicine

From the article Clinical problem-solving by medical students: a cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis by Neufeld, V et al (1981):

If experts take into consideration the correct diagnosis during the first 5 minutes of a consultation, this hypothesis becomes definite in 95% of cases. If the proper diagnosis has not been considered by this time point, there is a 95% probability that it will be missed.

Wow. That 95% is a huge percent. Now, I'm hearing you ask me what the heck this has to do with your life if you're not a medical professional. That's a great question and I think I can make a decent argument about how it fits into your life.

Adult ADHD and Beneficial Impulsivity

Many of us with Adult ADHD live with co-morbid anxiety disorders. This may not be true for you, but if it is listen on. Anxiety thrives on perserverence and incessant repetition of behaviors or thoughts. We second guess what we've made our minds up about, what we've already done or what we are thinking about doing. Let's play the game: Hypothetical Situation.

Sometimes when someone with adult ADHD makes snap judgements it to leads to positive results and decreased anxiety. Learn how ADHD impulsivity can be beneficial.Hypothetical Situation: Your kitchen needs a new stove and you need to weigh the cost and value of different stoves to decide which stove you want.

  • Stove A: cheapest, least energy efficient, prettiest
  • Stove B: second cheapest, energy efficient, somewhat pretty
  • Stove C: most expensive, energy efficient, not pretty

If I were to do a thorough internet search, I would find that there are more aspects of a stove to consider other than price, energy efficiency and looks. The thing I wonder, though, is will this search be worth it?

If I chose impulsively, I would chose Stove B and I think I would end up being quite happy with my decision - at least in this very black-and-white hypothetical situation. It could turn out that Stove A had the best consumer reviews or that Stove C also had a built in beer tap with an infinite amount of my favorite beverage (this is made up - no stove does this). The thing is, by making this somewhat impulsive decision, I have saved myself many things including time and anxiety and this might be one of those situations where if I don't make my decision in the first 5 minutes I might be 95% wrong.

Yes, I am applying medical research to stoves, but I have good, personal, anecdotal evidence for this in terms of shoes. Whenever I go to buy shoes, I often have a pair in mind. I search, search and search for cheaper, better shoes. I usually am happiest and most satisfied when I take my impulsive method and buy the shoes I want instead of searching. Online searching and in-store searching makes my brain unhappy. Comfy shoes make my feet happy. Seems simple enough to me. Seems pretty much like beneficial impulsiveness is possible.

What do the rest of y'all think?

APA Reference
Prager, E. (2014, February 17). Adult ADHD and Beneficial Impulsivity, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Elizabeth Prager

February, 20 2014 at 10:19 am

I totally agree about this: procrastination and in-depth research can kill creativity, good decisions and the soul; impulsivity can yield positive results and save an awful lot of agonising and anxiety!

Leave a reply