Impulse Control Issues
Impulse control issues or Impulsivity can be defined in several ways, depending on individual circumstances and the developmental stage of the person. Because Logan River Academy is an adolescent residential treatment center we will limit our discussion to the age groups between 14 and 18.
A lack of impulse control can be seen as a lack of time perspective-having no realistic concept of time. The past and the future are not considered before you act.
- Instancy: I have to have this right now.
- Impatience: I become desperate and angry if my needs are not met instantly.
- Impulsivity: If I do not get what I want right away, I am compelled to act out without regard for the consequences of my actions.
An inability to manage emotions.
- I am embarrassed and must show others that I am creditable.
- I am angry and feel taken advantage off. I must do something to show others they can not control me.
- I am sad and must overcome this pain. It is too much for me.
With impulse control issues there is often a need for immediate gratification and it is often preceded by a building up of tension. Impulsive activity relieves this tension. There is little concern for negative consequences in the future. A student with impulse control issues may not have the skills or maturity to delay acting out. Impulsive behaviors and acting out is a quick fix for painful emotions.
Impulse control issues are also a response to the flight / fight reaction which is either running from an experience, “I’m outa here’ or standing and seeking retribution “Lets find out what happens.” Impulse control problems may be followed by regret or remorse.
Treatment for problems caused by a lack of impulse control
Logan River Academy believes that a strong approach to overcoming impulse control issues lies in cognitive behavioral concepts. This approach includes the following:
Thinking distortions: We seek to teach our students to understand that their self-talk can lead to impulsive actions. At times what we think is not based on truth and causes unnecessary problems.
- Rationalizing—I don’t do it every day, I don’t have a problem.
- Minimizing—I don’t do it half as much as he does.
- Victim stance—Refusing to take responsibility for your role in a situation you have created for yourself.
Boundaries: Understanding and accepting boundaries is an important coping skill that moves students to a more positive interaction style and fewer impulse control issues. Boundaries are tools for building cooperation in relationships, for letting others know what you want, and for letting students know which options are available to them in getting what they want. Healthy boundaries give us self-discipline, maturity, and character. Respect for others increases.
Mindfulness: Among other things, mindfulness involves the concept of stop, look, and listen to what is occurring in a given situation. This allows the student to reframe what is occurring, moving the student to a more positive interaction style.
Rational Emotions: Students can learn to control how they feel by learning to control what they think. An emotion can be defined as a physiological response to both what we perceive and what we believe or think about our perceptions. The cause of our feelings is not what happens to us, but what we think about it. We have the ability to change an unpleasant emotion after it has appeared. Our attitudes and assumptions about our world influence how we feel. By confronting and recognizing our attitudes and assumptions we have the opportunity to be in charge of our emotions and lessen our impulsive behaviors.
Communication skills: We seek to help our students understand that the way we communicate with others can either get us what we need and want, or if done in negative ways, create frustration for us and others. The expectation is also that accepting feedback is part of the process of positive communication. It is important to accept and give information to others in a positive, responsible, respectful manner.
Impulse control is a reasonable goal for everyone and learned habits can be changed.