Response inhibition is one of the executive functions. Some ADHD experts see impaired response inhibition, sometimes referred to as impulsivity, as the core challenge faced by individuals with ADHD. Impaired response inhibition can show up in such behaviors as interrupting, failing to think before acting, inability to delay gratification, inability to wait one’s turn or resist distractions. It can certainly result in serious social, professional, and relationship problems.

On the other hand, spontaneity is a more positive way of expressing impulsivity. Think of a spur-of-the-moment trip to Skyline Drive to see the fall leaves. Think of a leader who has to make a quick decision in order to seize the moment for his group, or a first responder who at times must act before thinking to save lives. Impulsivity can also be an important aspect of creativity or thinking outside the box in situations in which unexpectedly novel choices could be lost if too much thinking takes over the process.

Remember – many ADHD traits can be invaluable when understood and managed so as not to cause hurt or harm. We might think of those traits as having a functional and a dysfunctional presentation.

Tomorrow’s ADHD fact will address the executive function of working memory.


Linda Swanson is an ADHD Coach in Warrenton, Virginia. She and her husband, Neil, are partners at Free To Be Coaching, LLC, where they coach in person or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. They coach students from middle school through college as well as adults of all ages, and they also facilitate two support groups for parents of children with ADHD. Linda and Neil are both graduates of the ADD Coach Academy and are credentialed by the International Coach Federation and the Professional Association of ADHD Coaches. Linda can be reached at or (703) 508-4774. 

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