5 Impulsive Behaviors That Are Destroying Your Mental Health

Published on: 29 Nov 2018
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A lot of the time, impulsive people truly can’t help their behavior. In fact, some folks are genetically predisposed to impulsivity, and a handful of mental illnesses such as borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder are characterized by impulsive behaviors. You don’t have to have a mental illness to act impulsively, but engaging in such behaviors might be wreaking more havoc on your mental health than you thought.

Here are 5 examples of (many different) impulsive behaviors that could be destroying your mental health.

Excessive Drinking

Excessive drinking and binge drinking are dangerous, as alcohol alters chemicals in the brain and affects how neurotransmitters function, which is crucial for good mental health.

We all know that drinking has a way of making us release our inhibitions…and that isn’t necessarily a good thing. For example, the impulsiveness of excessive drinking can lead to even more regrettable impulsive behaviors, like starting a fight or having unprotected sex. Alcohol is a depressant, and excessive drinking can make a depressed person more depressed, as well as more likely to contemplate suicide or self harm.

Taking Drugs

There’s a slew of dangerous drugs out there that can cause both long- and short-term negative effects on the mind. Many drugs are highly addictive, so what started as an impulsive decision (to try a certain drug) can result in full blown dependency, especially in someone already predisposed to addiction.

Drugs create changes in the brain, ranging from paranoia to hallucinations — and those effects might not stop when your trip is over. For example, using methamphetamine can increase the risk of schizophrenia symptoms, and using cocaine long term alters the brain in a way that makes it harder to feel pleasure and happiness without using drugs.

Becoming Violent & Aggressive

Everyone gets angry from time to time, but most people are able to resist actual violence. However, some folks have trouble containing their rage and impulsively end up physically fighting someone, punching objects, breaking things, or yelling.

In the long run, resorting to violence and aggression when angry will result in an inability process anger in a healthy way. Plus, people who lash out are likely to experience guilt and shame after their violent episode.

Domestic violence is also a problem for those with impulse control issues, making a healthy relationship unsustainable, and traumatizing your partner. Not to mention, there are financial and legal implications if you damage somebody’s property, or worse, physically injure someone.


Some people can gamble responsibly, putting a few dollars on black or enjoying the camaraderie and excitement of a weekly card game with friends. However, an impulsive bet on a horse race or a big win from a slot machine can expose somebody to a gambler’s high, fueled by adrenaline and the excitement of risk taking.

When a gambling habit gets out of hand, it can cause a multitude of problems in someone’s personal life. Gambling can eat up your time, leave you in debt, or cause you to pay more attention to the habit instead of important things in life, like relationships or work.

Overall mood and happiness may become dependent on gambling wins, and depression is likely to occur when a gambler takes big losses. Gambling can also become a means of escapism. Due to a lack of coping skills, escapists can’t sit with their problems and emotions in a healthy way.

Binge Eating

Yes, food seems to get more delicious by the year, and available at the touch of a finger and in a near-instant, but a line needs to be drawn somewhere! As with the other impulsive behaviors, what may start as “treat yourself” self-care can turn into a full blown habit…in some cases, an eating disorder.

When impulse control is lacking, binge eating can turn into a serious problem. People who binge might become reliant on food to help them deal with stress or negative emotions. If they’re having a bad day and food is in front of them, they might not be able to stop eating — even past the point of feeling full. Oftentimes, binge eating results in a vicious cycle that perpetuates poor self esteem.

A Professional Can Help Curb Impulsive Behaviors

To stop making dangerous, impulsive decisions, you have to make a conscious effort to change your ways and get help.And there’s no better time to turn things around than now.

Impulsive behaviors can have long term effects on both physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re not sure if you have a serious problem with these behaviors, chat with a doctor or mental health professional to get some feedback.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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