The ability to control your behaviour at all times is essential for the quality of your life, your health and wellbeing. People who have difficulties controlling their behaviour might not achieve their goals, obtain the promotions they desire or maintain their health at an optimal level. They might struggle with binge drinking, overeating, overspending or procrastinating, and they might choose smaller rewards now over bigger ones later on.

Let me give you couple of examples of when it is important to address impulsivity:

  • James goes out to a pub whenever he feels happy; he starts feeling excited and is having a good time but often wakes up in a backyard. His girlfriend has left him as she became tired of him not being able to control his drinking.

  • Kate wants to stay healthy but a slice of cake now is always a bit more tempting than the prospect of being fit and healthy for the rest of her life. She feels that she will indulge this one time and after that she will focus on her health. This pattern results in Kate hating herself as she always chooses a slice of cake.

  • Mike enjoys placing a bet on the footy game, but then he gets so excited he does not leave the TAB until he has placed a bet on horses, greyhounds, obscure sporting matches… when he leaves in the morning he usually calls his mother asking for money to cover his rent. He feels embarrassed and does not want to feel this way so he might smoke a joint to help him feel relaxed.

  • Jane overeats whenever she feels lonely. If she feels that she does not have any friends her worries become lighter as soon as she opens the fridge door. Although she is not hungry – just lonely – she has been doing this for the past 10 years, and she feels horrible and hates herself afterwards.

  • Peter can’t stand feeling bored and he needs to be busy all the time. He can’t tolerate this feeling at all: if he is forced to slow down and wait he gets annoyed; or if he simply has to stay still he becomes agitated, irritable and frustrated.

  • Angela finds it hard to stay focused when the task she is working on is difficult. She gets distracted and frustrated. Often she procrastinates – suddenly everything else is a priority including cleaning, calling friends and online shopping.

  • John loves everything exciting and thrilling – his hobbies are bungy jumping and car racing. He says it is the best feeling ever to have adrenalin rushing through his body, he feels ‘so alive’. Even though John has been doing it for a while he often ignores safety and just goes for anything new and exciting without completing proper training. He suffered several serious injuries throughout the years and is actually lucky to be alive.

Is it for me?

Impulsivity is a complex aspect of human behaviour. Scientists are still deciding on the exact definition of impulsivity, but there are a number of useful statements that describe impulsivity, including these:

“In my experience working both at the clinical level and the corporate training and development level impulsivity is a major problem in peoples lives. From its influence in problems with addiction, to its impact on mood regulation, violence, right through to its impact on poor decision making impulsivity is a major driver of human problems. Poor impulse management can undermine even the most talented people preventing them from thriving in life and career. It should never be overlooked.”

Jim O’Connor, 2018

“Perseverance to the response that is punished and unrewarded; as well as, preference for small immediate rewards rather than larger delayed rewards and making responses that are immature or an inability to withhold a response.”

Moeller et al., 2001

“Predisposition toward rapid, unplanned reactions to internal and external stimuli without regard to the negative consequences of these reactions to the impulsive individual or to others.”

Moeller, Barratt, Dougherty, Schmitz, & Swann, 2001

“Behaviours that are poorly conceived, premature, inappropriate and that frequently result in unwanted and deleterious outcomes.”

Chamberlain & Sahakian, 2007

“The Tendency to deliberate less than common people of equal ability before taking action.”

Dickman, 1990

“Acting on the spur of the moment, not focusing on the task at hand, and lack of planning.”

Stratton, 2006


Someone who is high in impulsivity can have difficulty controlling their behaviour and might be emotionally unstable, which manifests in behaviour that is risky and inappropriate and often leads to negative consequences (impaired relationships, damaged reputation, addictions).

Some other negative consequences of impulsive behaviour can be:

  • Weight gain, leading to people with high levels of impulsive behaviour becoming overweight or obese

  • Overspending on items you don’t even need

  • Impulsive spending on items you cannot afford

  • Stealing

  • Risky driving behaviours

  • Drinking excessively and taking drugs (or other harmful substances)

  • Eating excessively

  • Addictions to technology (such as mobile phones) or to internet pornography

  • Self-injury and higher levels of aggression towards oneself and others.

  • Sudden outbursts of anger.

Furthermore, it leads to an individual experiencing:

  • Increased anxiety and depressive moods

  • Low self-esteem and increased stress

  • Social isolation

  • Increased self-injurious behaviour

Meet the Founder

Dr Yuliya Richard | Impulsivity

Dr. Yuliya Richard

Director and Principal Psychologist at Blue Horizon Counselling

Need more Information?


    Note: Before taking part in this program, consult your doctor or mental health practitioner. This program is not a replacement or substitute for your psychological treatment. If you have a pre-existing mental health condition or have any concerns about completing computerised programs, please consult your doctor prior to starting this program.

    Should you feel that anything in this program has brought up feelings of emotional distress, stop the program immediately and please contact the Lifeline counselling service by telephone on 13 11 14; if you are outside of Australia please contact your local mental health services and as soon as possible contact your mental health practitioner or your doctor. Remember, you have a right to discontinue the program if you find any of the tasks uncomfortable or distressing.

    *** This program shall not be used as a substitute or treatment for Impulse Control Disorders or any other condition that requires intervention from an allied health practitioner or a medical practitioner.