Executive Functions: Action
Executive functions are not easy to define. But symptoms are easier to spot.
The most commonly reported symptom of ADHD in both adults and children is impulsivity.
Acting and speaking impulsively can cause some problems in your life. The older you get, the more the world expects you to self-regulate.
In the book, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, Dr. Russell Barkley describes ADHD as a three pronged problem including poor inhibition, poor self-control, and poor executive functioning.
Inhibition is defined as, “impatience, impulsive decision making, off-the cuff comments, and difficulty in stopping activities when they need to.”
Poor self-control is described as, “focused on immediate rewards, unable to consider the consequences to their actions, likely to skip out on something they find boring, and problems listening to and following directions.
Executive functioning is described as, “poor sense of time, forgetfulness, trouble retaining and comprehending reading, and easily frustrated.”
This is at the heart of why we struggle with ADHD.
Dr. Thomas Brown defines Action as:
“Many persons with ADHD, even those without problems of hyperactive behavior, report chronic problems in regulating their actions. They often are too impulsive in what they say or do, and in the way they think, jumping too quickly to inaccurate conclusions. Persons with ADHD also report problems in monitoring the context in which they are interacting. They fail to notice when other people are puzzled, or hurt or annoyed by what they have just said or done and thus fail to modify their behavior in response to specific circumstances. Often they also report chronic difficulty in regulating the pace of their actions, in slowing self and/or speeding up as needed for specific tasks.”
As a person who has never had the hyperactivity that so many associate with ADHD, it’s good to know that somebody understands that this diagnosis is not the same for everyone.
Inhibition and Self-Control
In the Enclave we often talk about self-regulation. In fact, we talk quite a bit about Dr. Brown and Dr. Barkley in particular, and how their models for ADHD relate to our lives.
Many of us lack the ability to stop and think before taking action or responding emotionally. As we know this leads to words and behaviors we often regret.
For example, if we sense that someone is judging us we might make a snap decision that they don’t like us and we are going to be rude right back.
You and I rarely stop to ask ourselves if we are misinterpreting another person’s words and actions.
Following directions, even our own, is nearly impossible. We miss the details and we find it boring so our minds move on to the next thing.
Ever tried waiting in line at the grocery store behind an extreme couponer? I have. It didn’t go well.
– Educate yourself on executive functions.
– Use your internal voice to slow yourself down. If necessary talk to yourself. (I do it all the time, it helps.)
– Practice calming techniques and personal mantras.
– Think before you speak. Create a space between when someone else speaks, and when you speak.
– Use timers on our phone, your computer, everywhere you can.
– Categorize your day-to-day responsibilities and create processes around them. (See my post on tiny habits to get started.)
Executive Functions touch every aspect of our lives. Understanding what EF’s are is of profound importance when you are trying to live your best life with ADHD.
It is time to move forward and empower yourself with information.
Work on yourself and all parts of your life will improve. Your relationships, your parenting and your self-perception will change.
Over time you will feel more in-control of yourself and better able to express what you need and what makes you happy.
I see you. I hear you. I am with you.