Bipolar and Impulsivity: A Dangerous Symptom No one likes to Talk about

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In college, I once sent an inappropriate and scary chain letter email to my ex-roommate, a girl who had gotten Residence Life to give her a restraining order against me. I also used to blurt out hurtful things to other students, spend too much money on things I didn’t need, and drink too much.

Later in life, in my thirties, I sent an accusatory email to a local meteorologist whom I thought my husband was having an affair with. This was completely based on my own paranoia. Now, in my forties, impulsivity has been a cardinal symptom of my bipolar disorder type 1.

It’s more than medication.

I have found psychotherapy to help me increase my self-awareness whether I am in an episode or stable. It focuses on what triggers the impulsive behavior and when I’m about to launch into one.

Studies say there’s a link between explosive anger and impulse control. I have found when I am most rageful I tend to do impulsive things, especially when someone cuts me off behind the wheel.

BPhope.com suggests three things to do to check impulsiveness: Find a lifeguard; Find your weak points; and install braking systems. A lifeguard is someone like a therapist who will work with you to identify your triggers and establish a plan of action in staying stable. Your weak points are those that you find hard to resist. Braking systems are the techniques you use to check the impulsive idea or behavior from wreaking havoc in your life.

A technique one might use to put the brakes on impulsivity a therapist once told me would be to ask oneself Is this need to be said?, Do I really want this or the consequences that this behavior will carry? Make a pros and cons list of the action. Sometimes seeing the pros and cons it will deter you from the action.

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