For someone with ADHD, this scenario can play out a lot more frequently than it might for a neurotypical person. Impulsivity is a fairly common symptom of ADHD, and one of the ways it can manifest is through impulse purchases. In addition to being unnecessary, these types of purchases can also put someone's finances in serious trouble. Learn more about why this happens and get strategies for minimizing impulsive shopping behaviors with ADHD.

Self-Regulation Challenges with ADHD

Why is impulsivity an issue for many people with ADHD? The answer lies in the brain's role in self-regulation. People with ADHD struggle with executive function skills due to the differences in the way their brain works. This means they struggle with self-regulation, which can lead to impulsive actions and decisions.

Another difference with ADHD brains is that they tend to have lower levels of dopamine. People with the disorder might engage in impulsive behaviors in order to get that extra hit of dopamine they crave. Shopping can be a source of dopamine because it provides momentary excitement and satisfaction.

Consequences of Impulse Purchases

Unfortunately, the initial rush of dopamine from shopping can wear off soon after with many impulse purchases. The reality often sets in later when unnecessary items start to pile up at home. Even worse is the potential impact that impulsive shopping can have on someone's finances. Bank accounts dwindle and credit card bills might start to pile up. When impulsive shopping gets out of control, it may create serious financial challenges and cause problems in that person's relationships.

Other ADHD symptoms can cause further issues with impulsive shopping. If you regret an impulse purchase, you may be able to return it. However, if you have ADHD, you might also struggle with other executive function skills, like organization, planning, and time management. That makes it harder to arrange for returning an item, whether it's shipping a package back to the retailer after online shopping or traveling back to the store where the purchase was originally made in person. In addition, people with ADHD may have trouble paying bills on time for similar reasons, which spells trouble for someone who's racking up credit card charges.

Tips to Avoid Impulsive Shopping

If you struggle with impulsive shopping, there are several strategies you can implement to try to curb your spending and limit unnecessary purchases.

Take control of your cash

Perhaps the most practical way to avoid impulsive shopping is to make your money less readily available for those types of purchases. The longer it takes you to access the cash you need, the more time your brain has to consider the potential ramifications of the purchase. Some of the possible ways you can do this include:

  • Only shop with cash so you have a set limit for how much you can spend.
  • Cut up credit cards that you've overused in the past.
  • Don't save credit card information on your devices so that it auto-fills when online shopping.
  • Use an app that tracks your spending or helps with budgeting your money.

Set a time limit

One simple rule can help many impulsive shoppers: Wait 24 hours before you buy. This waiting period allows you to still enjoy a little excitement about the possibility of buying the item, but it helps to prevent you from making a rash decision and regretting it later on. After you exit the store or leave the item in your online shopping cart, you might even forget about it. If you put the 24-hour rule in place and you're able to stick to it, you'll likely end up with fewer unnecessary purchases.

Unsubscribe from promotional emails

Many inboxes are inundated with promotional emails every day. Each of those messages can be a potential trigger for an impulse purchase, so make sure to unsubscribe from these emails. If you still want to sign up to receive the occasional discount code, have these emails automatically sent to a separate folder. If you know you want to make a purchase from one of your favorite stores, you'll be able to access recent emails in that folder, but you won't be distracted or tempted by them on a regular basis.

Find the right ADHD medication

Medication is typically the most effective way to minimize ADHD symptoms, including impulsivity. With the right treatment plan in place, many people find that they're able to manage their ADHD much more effectively. In fact, research has found that stimulant medications can decrease impulsive behaviors in people with ADHD. Working closely with an ADHD clinician can help you get on the right track to managing your impulsive shopping habits.

If you're looking for help managing your ADHD symptoms, Done can help. We offer convenient telehealth services for ADHD diagnosis and treatment, and our licensed clinicians can help you find the right medication for your unique needs. Complete our quick online assessment to get started.