Mental Illness--Acting on Impulse!

March 19, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

First, let me pull out my Thesaurus (I have not done this for. . .a month? Two? Long overdue?) to define the word impulse and then we'll narrow it down a bit--a lot. We'll apply it to mental illness and shake the word up a bit.

The word impulse is defined as. . .drum-roll please:

>Vagrant or fleeting impulse

>Quick hunch





<[to]Blurt out

OK. That's all wonderful. Words are great, but words are just words when they are not defined on a personal level. On the topic of impulse, mental illness goes hand in hand, they live side by side. Let's explore why.

Examples of Impulsivity in My Life

First, please share your experience. Our experiences with impulsivity are as unique as the various definitions of the word itself.

I hate to do this, really, I do, but it's part of the job. I feel it's important to use an example from my life because if I cannot relate to what I write I should not be writing it at all.

I have been known, and this is really embarrassing, to decide I want a new pet (right now!) when I start to get a little loopy. When my heart begins to race I drag whoever is willing (and uniformed of our destination) to the pet shop. I really believe that if I own a damn cockatiel or a rabbit I will feel better! Yes, my life will be perfect if only I purchase something (with a heartbeat nonetheless!) that needs to be taken care of, that needs to be loved. Needs what I could not, at that time and the times that followed, provide for it.

That's where the unfortunate person standing beside me while I hold various small animals comes into the rather strange scenario. They tell me that I have a cat and I have a dog and I don't even like rabbits--or birds. And we leave.

That's impulse.

When I was an addict, impulsivity was defined by the bottles of liquor I picked up and the bags of drugs that nearly killed me.

Now sober, impulsivity is defined by purchasing things. Clothes. Hair products that cost a fortune. Candles. Just things--I curse E-Bay! Eventually, they end up in my closet because I like my home uncluttered. Side-Note: Home payment's and bills come first, pet insurance etc...

Enough about me, let's talk about you, or someone you know, someone you love. Someone with a mental illness who can act a little impulsive.

Why Do Those With a Mental Illness Act Impulsively?

You might be asking yourself:"Why is she asking such an idiotic, obvious, question? Should I keep reading this bollocks?" Yes, please.

The obvious answer that comes to mind is that mental illness is, in part, defined by acting compulsively, impulsively, and that would be correct. When we are not stable neither are our actions. But that isn't the only answer to the question.

Acting on impulsive can be a diversion from how we feel. Depressed? Do something quickly! Feeling anxious? Do something, anything, to make it go away! Right now! Five minutes ago!

That's what it's really about: Wanting feelings to go away. Feelings we feel we cannot control--Self-medicating our mental illness. When we are struggling to achieve a state of recovery acting impulsively is a symptom of our illness.

Final Words. . .

Once we acheive a state of mental health stability, we might still fight impulsive urges, I do. I don't have a bunch of pet birds or hamsters, but I do have to watch my wallet and not self-medicate by spending money.

Recovering from mental illness, despite the rather rocky road sometimes, has involved learning to allow myself to feel bad without trying to make myself feel better in unhealthy ways.

And that's the trick I guess--there is no trick.

Work to recognize patterns you may exhibit in your life. If you need help check in with your mental health team and recognize that understanding impulsive behaviour can aide you in your recovery from mental illness because that is the goal.

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APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, March 19). Mental Illness--Acting on Impulse!, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

October, 29 2019 at 6:38 am

I just almost drove off to the next state when I saw the blog about doll house 5am in the myself.......cause I really wanted to all of a sudden......
I would've been there if my car didn't break down all of a sudden
this all happened just now btw
I dunno, it just made perfect sense for me in my head. I'm sad so I should make myself feel better and getting out to new scenary would be perfect. This would help me! And then my car broke down so I'm sad again now

May, 13 2014 at 11:36 am

This is one awesome blog post. Keep writing. effgcdfgecce

May, 13 2014 at 11:36 am

In fact when someone doesnt understand then its up to other visitors that they will help, so here it takes place. ecdbeeeedbac

March, 22 2012 at 9:27 am

Impulse,good Lord do I know what that feels like and does in my life. Gradually my husband and I are getting our charge cards paid down. I've shredded two cards and have asked one company to stop sending new cards. Has that helped me to stop spending, yes, and staying out of stores doesn't hurt either! Impulse,it can hit me during depression and definitely when manic. I quit two jobs and blew a teaching internship while depressed, I've spent too much money when manic. Fortunately, my meds have made me stable so there isn't as much impulse and drama in my life right now.

Eagle Mind
March, 20 2012 at 8:02 am

When I was at my worst, sudden impulsive urges drained my bank account many times over. I still, many years later, once in in awhile have them. I MUST have a new expensive men's cologne that just came out, or more pens that will add to the dozens lined in my desk drawer.
Now, I place the majority of the finances in my wife's hands. I find without "those" credit cards in my wallet, by the time I get home the impulse usually passes.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
March, 21 2012 at 5:58 am

Hi, Eagle Mind:
I get the pen thing:) I can only have a certain kind and a lot of them in case, well, maybe they stop making them? Funny what you can talk yourself into!
I paid off all credit cards and vow never to have another, at this point in my life anyway.
Thanks for the comment!

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