Impulsivity with Brain Injury Definition and Examples

Impulsivity Definition

The definition of impulsivity is the tendency to act on a “whim”.  Acting out behavior without thinking about it or the consequences of such behavior.

Examples of Impulsivity

In our TBI Voices project we interviewed over thirty survivors and talked to them about deficits they have encountered due to their traumatic brain injury. The best way to explain impulsivity is to give you real life stories of the impairment.

Our first example of impulsivity comes from our story of Ian.Ian suffered a traumatic brain injury when he had an accident while riding his motorcycle.  He has no memory of the accident itself and doesn’t know if he blacked out or maybe even had a heart attack or a stroke.  One of the frontal lobe deficits he exhibits is impulsivity.  Ian’s Mom tells that he will do things that are out of character for him and ask him why he would do that.  Later Ian would state that he wish he hadn’t done it.  When she asks him if he thought about it first he would just get up and walk away. She sates that it doesn’t even have to be anything tangible but at the time he doesn’t see anything wrong with his actions.  To read the entire story of Ian click here.

Our next example come from out interview with Lori.  Lori suffered her traumatic brain injury while on her way to work.  She was on the freeway and a construction truck lost a bale of hay and the hay hit her windshield.  This caused her car to run off the roadway and hit a cement abutment.  Her memory leads right up to the time the bale of hay hit her.  One of the frontal lobe deficits that she has incurred is impulsivity.  Because of this she has made some very poor judgement call when it comes to her sexuality.  She became very impulsive when it came to having sex with the opposite sex.  Some of this can be attributed to the need for intimacy.  She found herself trying to force herself on men in a sexual way.  Not like the Lori at all before her brain injury.  To read the entire interview with Lori click here 

Our last example come from the story of Kelly.Kelly was trying to break an untamed horse.  She believes that the horses bridle slipped which caused her to fall and hit her head which in turn caused her to suffer a severe brain injury.  She has trouble with impulsivity when it comes to money control.  Knowing how expensive gasoline is and her very strict budget, she gets the impulse to just drive.  Sometimes for hours.  She is known to go out of her way trying to get from point A to B.  Even though she knows she can not afford the gas her impulses take over.  To read the entire story of Kelly click here 

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Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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