It’s the season to be impulsive

During the festive season, the trend is to eat more, spend more and think less. It’s about out-and-out hedonism and the pursuit of all things pleasurable. But if you’re an adult with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), trying to control impulsive habits during the festive season can be a daunting task – with consequences if unmanaged.

Festivities with no filter
According to psychiatrist and convenor of the South African ADHD Special Interest Group, Dr Rykie Liebenberg, the festive season can be particularly difficult for adults with ADHD. This puts a strain not only on the individual with ADHD, but on the whole family.

“Adults with ADHD are naturally more impulsive in their day-to-day lives, which can pose a major challenge during the festive season when overspending and indulging is on the up-swing,” explains Liebenberg. “Problems with managing finances, diet and drinking become even more prevalent in peak holiday season.”

Dreaming of a ‘right’ Christmas
Liebenberg says partners of adults with ADHD often experience the frustration of having their partner make impulse purchases on an ongoing basis – four wheelers, new cars or unnecessary gadgets – instead of paying the required household bills. This is worsened during the festive season. They also battle to control the impulses that lead to substance abuse, like drinking, and binge eating.

Women with ADHD are particularly predisposed to binge eating disorders. And when there’s a notable occasion every night of the week during the holidays, controlling these negative habits becomes increasingly tough.

Master yuletide yearnings
There are, however, ways for adults with ADHD to recognise and control impulses ahead of time, to avoid unnecessary spending, overeating and drinking during the festive season. Liebenberg recommends avoiding situations in which spending could become out of control, or putting practical systems in place to control spending.

“Go shopping with a friend or partner who you designate to check-in with you and make sure you’re not veering off course, or purchasing unnecessary, out-of-budget items,” says Liebenberg.

Liebenberg shares another useful way of controlling spending: make a concise list of the gifts or items you need, set a budget, and then target stores specifically for these items. Avoid large shopping malls where temptation is rife, and stick to smaller stores with limited options.

“If you’re attending an end-of-year function, set a time limit and leave before things get too festive – even better, book your transport ahead of time, so you can’t renege on your commitment to yourself,” advises Leibenberg.

Effective treatment also goes a long way in managing the impulsivity associated with ADHD.

“With a correct treatment plan and managed condition, ADHD doesn’t have to interfere with holiday fun or put strain on a family. It’s a time to celebrate family and bonds, without being weighed down by worry. So if you suspect you or your partner might be exhibiting signs of ADHD-associated impulsivity, seek help from a medical professional to give you the support and treatment you need,” concludes Liebenberg.

PHZA/CONC/1216/0001

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