Impulse control has a lot to do with addiction. It’s no coincidence that many mental health issues that involve impulse control also increase your risk of addiction. ADHD, OCD, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder all have a significant impulse control component and higher risk of addiction. What’s more, the longer you live with addiction, the weaker your impulse control becomes. Brain scans have found that in people with long-standing addictions, their prefrontal cortex–the part of the brain responsible for self-control and planning, among other things–becomes cut off from the limbic system–the areas of your brain that respond to substance use. As a result, it can be physically difficult for people recovering from addiction to control their impulses, which is one major reason why relapse rates tend to be high. It takes a while to rebuild this impulse control, perhaps as long as two years. Here are some ways to control your impulses in addiction recovery.
Address the mental health issue.
Since mental health issues are such a common driver of addictive behavior, addressing those should be your first priority. This is where mutual aid groups such as 12-step programs often fall short. Controlling conditions like ADHD, OCD, and bipolar disorder require psychotherapy and often medication. Without treatment, controlling your impulses will be much harder.
Be careful who you spend time with.
The people you spend the most time with have a significant influence on your behavior. If they are prone to impulsive behavior or substance use, you will probably go along with it sooner or later. On the other hand, if you spend time with people who are more circumspect and less prone to reckless behavior, not only will they tempt you less, but they will dampen your more destructive impulses.
Know your triggers.
Whatever sets off your cravings or other desires to do something reckless, you can better avoid impulsive behavior if you know what your triggers are. Knowing your triggers lets you avoid them. Even when you can’t avoid them, you can brace for them or take precautions. For example, if you’re going to a family gathering and you know people will be drinking, you can bring someone along to hold you accountable. Just knowing that you’re experiencing a trigger can take some of the confusion and frustration out of dealing with a difficult situation.
Manage your environment.
In addition to spending time with reliable people and avoiding triggers, you can set up your environment to reduce your temptations. Avoid having alcohol or drugs in the house. Delete your dealer’s number from your phone. Take a route to work that doesn’t pass the liquor store. The more inconvenient it is to relapse, the safer you will be.
Mindfulness has been shown to strengthen the prefrontal cortex, the same part of the brain addiction weakness. Practicing mindfulness, both in meditation and in daily life can rebuild the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the other parts of your brain. You can notice cravings arise earlier, you can notice triggers, and you can intervene with whatever strategy best helps you control your behavior. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.