In the diagnostic manual, the ICD-11, impulsivity forms part of the essential diagnostic criteria for a number of conditions, including ADHD. It is also frequently found in autistics.

Everyone is impulsive at times. The key difference in identifying impulsivity as being part of a neurodivergence, rather than simply an inevitable aspect of all human behaviour, is when the impulsivity occurs frequently, in different environments, over time and, crucially, that this impulsivity has a detrimental effect on our lives: school, relationships, budgeting…

So, that’s a very basic summary of the formal diagnostic take on impulsivity. But what is impulsivity to us? We are led to believe that we lack self-control, that we act thoughtlessly – often causing crises as a consequence. This may well be causing damage in various aspects of our lives – many neurodivergents regret the consequences of our impulsivity – whether they have had financial, employment, health or relationship consequences.

Having acknowledged that, the link at the end is to an extremely interesting take on impulsivity in neurodivergent people. The author, a counsellor in the United States, points out that neurodivergent people are always being labelled too controlled, too withdrawn, too unpredictable, too impulsive. She believes that, if neurotypical professionals decide what should be classed as impulsivity in neurodivergents, they “impose [their] understanding and experience of a patient’s behavior onto them rather than showing curiosity and openness to their internal experience and the feelings and needs driving these behaviors”. The author, Shira Collings, argues that we, as neurodivergents, spend so much of our lives being less of something, more of something, toeing the line, masking away in order to fit in, that impulsivity could be seen as something we do as a much needed release. Food for thought. And here is the article.