Aug. 1, 2022

The ADHD Struggle of Impulse Spending, with Dr. J. Russell Ramsay

The ADHD Struggle of Impulse Spending, with Dr. J. Russell Ramsay

The second of our three-part series with Dr. J. Russell Ramsay, co-founder and co-director of the University of Pennsylvania's adult ADHD treatment and research program and associate professor of clinical psychology in the department of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Externalized Tricks to Control Spending

One of the most common concerns people with ADHD struggle with is impulsive spending. It's essential to take a clear look at where we are in our life and ask ourselves if what we're doing and if the things we think we want are providing value in our life. You can use a few externalized tricks to help control impulse spending.

  1. Create a vision board of the things you want to work toward and give them timelines.
  2. Do target searches while shopping online to minimize impulsive spending and keep you focused on only the needed items.
  3. Shop with a partner so you can each come to a consensus on what you purchase.
  4. Keep your credit cards at home in a drawer or lock-box where you need to unlock them, creating a delay and allowing you time to decide if you need to make the purchase.
  5. Don't carry cash. Make yourself go to the ATM to get money before buying an item you want.

Implementation Strategies

It takes self-monitoring to manage impulse spending. Online spending was created as a convenience for shoppers but is exceptionally high risk for people with ADHD.

Peter Gollwitzer, a German professor of psychology in the Psychology Department at New York University, focused his research on cognitive rehearsal following an if X then Y coping statement.

For example, you are shopping on In goal-focused behavior, the X coping statement is adding items to your shopping cart. The Y coping statement is whether to purchase or keep the cart until later.

Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors are like a Braided Cord

Cognitive behavioral therapy centers around the role of our thoughts and how they can be a helpful entry point, like changing behaviors can change our attitudes and ideas and recognize our feelings.

Feelings about finances and money can trigger anxiety, dealing with uncertainty. For example, someone whose parent was a gambler or overspending, and their car was repossessed from the parking lot, creating a traumatic memory. Then when they're adults, managing their finances in adulthood resurfaces that childhood trauma. They may worry about losing their job or if there will be another economic downturn.

Our sense of self needs to be stronger than the idea that we are not our income or the letters behind our name. However far we go in school shouldn't define us, but they do get in the way, especially for folks with ADHD. Following through on our design plans for an outcome we want doesn't always work out and may lead us to abandon them without knowing why because, in our minds, we think we've failed.

Part 1 of this interview series
Dr. Ramsay's book: Rethinking Adult ADHD: Helping Clients Turn Intentions Into Actions

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