Understanding the Connection Between Addiction and Impulsive Behaviors

Feb 18, 2024

Throughout life, there will be times when an individual may act without thinking, especially during childhood. In adulthood, however, impulsivity can cause a wide range of problems and concerns, from maladaptive behaviors like substance abuse to other high-risk activities that compromise health and well-being. Addiction and impulsive behaviors have an undeniable connection, which can complicate the treatment and recovery journey. Yet, working to understand the connection between addiction and impulsive behaviors can help individuals become more aware of the mechanisms driving their behaviors and, thus, effectively establish abstinence in sobriety. 

At Renaissance Ranch, we are committed to helping men recover from addiction and impulsive behaviors. Using a 12-Step approach coupled with evidence-based practices and trauma-informed care, we have the resources and tools that individuals need not only to establish sobriety but also to maintain recovery for a lifetime to come. Moreover, as addiction and impulsive behaviors tend to co-occur, we lean into spiritual growth and healing to enable lasting success in sobriety. 

Addiction and Impulsive Behaviors: What Develops First?

First and foremost, it is important to understand that addiction and other forms of substance use disorder (SUD) are both impulsive and compulsive on their own. Although the earliest phases of substance abuse are driven by impulsivity, that does not always mean that problems with substance use develop first. As explained by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, three factors connect impulsivity with SUD. These include:

#1. Genetics Related to the Trait Effects of Impulsivity

In some families, impulsive tendencies (which decrease cognitive and response inhibition) may be acquired genetically. Individuals with a family history of impulsivity are more vulnerable to developing genes with associated trait effects and engage in impulsive behavior as a result.

#2. Chronic Substance Use Can Trigger Impulsive Tendencies

Repeated substance use alters brain structure and function, diminishing an individual’s ability to exert self-control over impulses and make healthy decisions. As a result, substance use can trigger impulsive behaviors alongside continued alcohol and drug use. 

#3. Both Genetic and Environmental Factors Can Influence Addiction and Impulsive Behaviors

Unique characteristics (such as an individual’s age or sex) can make an individual vulnerable to impulsive behaviors throughout their lifetime. Further, the European Journal of Psychotraumatology highlights that exposure to traumatic events can influence impulsive behaviors, along with brain injury and severe mental illnesses. 

In this way, it is just as likely for SUD to develop as a result of impulsive behavior as it is for alcohol and drug use to worsen impulsivity. Those seeking recovery from addiction and impulsive behaviors can benefit from identifying the root causes of their behaviors in treatment, as this will help them create a successful and effective treatment plan to overcome them.

Addiction and Co-Occurring Impulsive Behaviors

Due to the incredibly complex factors shared between addiction and impulsive behaviors, many individuals may find themselves struggling with alcohol and drug use alongside other maladaptive behaviors related to impulsivity. Aside from substance abuse, some examples of impulsive behavior include:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Bingeing
  • Destruction of property
  • Impulsive spending (including gambling)

As mentioned above, impulsive behavior can result from mental health disorders, substance abuse, and other health concerns. Yet, when impulsive behavior is left untreated, it is only a matter of time before it triggers worsening consequences for an individual’s health and interpersonal relationships. 

For instance, individuals struggling with addiction and impulsive behaviors may find themselves lying, stealing, or neglecting personal responsibilities to obtain their next “fix.” Unfortunately, individuals who engage in these behaviors are doing so without thinking or considering the repercussions of their actions. Meanwhile, since substance abuse diminishes self-control, professional treatment is necessary not only to help an individual establish abstinence and cease impulsive behavior but also to prevent it throughout lifelong recovery. 

Healing From Addiction and Impulsive Behaviors

At Renaissance Ranch, we understand that everyone’s journey with addiction and impulsive behaviors is unique to them. Therefore, we believe that the treatment process should also be unique to them, tailored to an individual’s unique needs and goals for recovery. At our facility, treatment plans will be curated based on these specifications, enabling peace of mind for the client as they kickstart their recovery journey. 

Almost every treatment journey will begin with detox, as this allows individuals to rid the toxic remnants of alcohol and drugs from their bodies, creating a clean physical and mental slate for treatment. Following detoxification, a variety of treatment approaches will be utilized to help individuals better understand the connections that exist between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. One of the most valuable modalities for this is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which will help clients avoid acting on impulse by widening their awareness of their life experiences. 

Meanwhile, at Renaissance Ranch, we are a faith-based recovery center that utilizes a 12-Step approach. During treatment, clients will lean into peer support and the connection to a Higher Power to guide them in sustaining lasting recovery from addiction and impulsive behaviors. 

Addiction and impulsive behaviors often co-exist, as chronic alcohol and drug use is an impulsive tendency on its own. Thus, recognizing why individuals with addiction are uniquely vulnerable to impulsive behaviors like lying, stealing, or engaging in other high-risk activities can serve as motivation to engage in professional treatment for lasting healing. At Renaissance Ranch, we help men recover from addiction and impulsive behaviors using evidence-based principles, a 12-Step philosophy, and trauma-informed care. By leaning into faith and social support, clients will become empowered to take back control of their life and their well-being. To learn more about our treatment program options, give us a call today at (801) 308-8898.