ADHD, executive function disorder, whatever you want to call it – if you have ADHD, you also have executive function disorder.
“It’s not that people with ADHD and Executive Function Disorder don’t know what to do, it’s that somehow it does not get done.” – Russell Barkley, PhD
I’ve always liked Dr. Barkley’s ability to get to the crux of the issue.
What are Executive Functions and why I should care?
I’m not gonna lie, my initial research left my very confused.
Reading the descriptions of Executive Function I thought, “that sounds an awful lot like ADHD.”
My favorite description comes from Dr. Thomas Brown, here is a link to one article.
I have written a short articles on several of these categories that you can read separately.
In your day-to-day life, executive function impacts a number of thought and behavioral processes.
Because ADHD is so individual, it’s impossible for me to list all the impacts here, but I can give you a sampling of how I think*** executive dysfunction impacts my ability to complete tasks.
- Prioritizing tasks
- Analyzing a task
- Motivating myself to start
- Planning how to address the task
- Organizing the steps needed to carry out the task
- Developing a timeline for completing the task
- Adjusting or shifting steps in order to complete the task
- Completing the task in a timely way
- Feeling a sense of satisfaction when I DO finish something
- Overthinking my performance
Another example of ADHD/EFD in action
There was once a 7th grade girl named ADHD Addie. She was a nice girl – friendly and agreeable. Nobody knew that she was ADHD and had been driving herself crazy trying to compensate.
Addie was given an assignment. The assignment looked something like this: come up with a science fair project, complete the project to show it at the fair, and then write a short summary of your findings.
Addie diligently writes the assignment in her planner, goes home and does not even think about it again until the next time the assignment is mentioned in class.
Addie procrastinates about researching the prior year’s projects, and therefore does not formulate a plan. In fact, she does not even think through the steps involved to complete a science project, effectively skipping the organizational step.
Addie pulls out her planner to look at the due date for her science fair project when it is mentioned in class. Even then, the momentary panic she feels is not enough to mark her consciousness.
Approximately one week before the project is due her teacher asks some of the students to talk about their projects. Panic sets in immediately and Addie starts to fidget in her seat.
The weekend before the project is due, Addie tells her mother in a tearful meltdown that she has to complete the science project immediately. Her mother asks her what she had planned to do for the project. What plan? There was never a plan.
The project is turned in a day late. Points are deducted, a low grade is received and the cycle of shame and self-loathing continues.
<insert eye roll>
Dr. thomas brown to the rescue
Fortunately, there was an ADDitude sponsored free teleconference with Thomas Brown, PhD that I had the opportunity to attend.
Dr. Brown did a fantastic job of explaining the connection between ADHD and EFD.
In short, if you have ADHD you most likely also have EFD.
This comes as no surprise seeing as the story above is loosely based on one of my own childhood memories.
According to Dr. Brown, ADHD is a developmental impairment of the brain’s management system. Naturally, as we age the demands for executive functions increase incrementally as we progress through adolescence and into adulthood.
Here is a screen shot that I think really encapsulates EFD:
I also listened to Dr. Russell Barkley’s teleconference with ADDitude that delved into How ADHD Affects Executive Functioning in Adults and Children.
Dr. Barkley confirmed Dr. Brown’s research stating, “ having ADHD nearly guarantees that you will have an EF disorder.”
Dr. Barkley further improved my understanding of executive functions as they apply to self-regulation.
Self-regulation includes skills such as self-awareness, inhibition, nonverbal working memory and self-motivation. I actually wrote about my terrible working memory Here.
As women we wear so many hats, we are providers, mothers, cooks, and housekeepers.
You and I both know it is easy to get bogged down in the mundane day-to-day stuff of our lives.
I know very few women with ADHD who do not feel completely overwhelmed.
Short summary: If you have ADHD you probably have EFD
For that reason we need to be aware of how these functions factor into our ADHD symptoms. When it comes to ADHD or EFD knowledge and awareness really is power.
If we don’t educate ourselves, who will?