Sadly the term ADHD gets thrown around in a cavalier manner. So what are common executive functioning issues EXACTLY?
Getting a better grasp on our understanding of the roots of untreated Adult ADHD is the first step in treating it.
So I’m going to take a moment to go through the details of executive functioning to show you how it impacts people in their daily lives.
8 Common Executive Functioning Issues
I think it’s interesting that executive functioning has only recently become a “buzzword”.
That’s because it’s been an integral part of the study of neuropsychology.
In a nutshell, executive functions are the neurological processes we use to exert mental control and manage our behaviours.
Dr. Goia and his colleagues compiled a checklist to give people a concise synopsis of executive functioning. This should help to clarify what executive functions are:
Dr. Gioia is a pediatric neuropsychologist and the Chief of the Division of Pediatric Neuropsychology at Children’s National Medical Center, where he directs the Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program.
Dr. Goia's Checklist:
This is the split second you take when you consider the consequences of your actions. Someone with issues connected to executive function act on impulse. If you have a deficit in this area you speak without a filter, act without thought and may even engage in risky behaviors.
Situations in life change and require you to shift gears. People with difficulties in this area find transitions tough. I’ve heard it referred to as leaky brakes. The result may be inflexibility and an inability to cope with everyday changes.
Most of us can moderate our emotions. If you have issues with executive function, an emotion like anger may become overwhelming or difficult to contain. You may also find it tough to handle criticism or manage your feelings.
One of the most common issues with executive function is commencing tasks. Do you have a tough time creating strategies and generating ideas independently? It’s difficult to start a project when everything seems like it’s coming at you all at once.
This is the ability to retain information for the multi-step processes we encounter daily. People with executive function problems have difficulty remembering things like directions.
Planning & Prioritization:
Everyone needs to figure out how to manage events that are coming down the pipeline. If you have issues with executive function it is difficult to organize aspects of your life and plan for the future.
Are your papers in folders labeled by subject, well then it’s clear your executive function in this area is in working order. If you lack efficiency and your documents are in disarray this may indicate a problem.
Are you able to assess your own actions according to the social norms? If not this may highlight an issue with executive function. People with deficits in this area may be surprised by things that would seem obvious to someone else.
Common Executive Functioning Issues Are Overlooked
All too often common executive functioning issues are overlooked.
With a learning disability such as dyslexia or color blindness there are simple tests that diagnose the problem once and for all.
Unfortunately an executive function diagnosis is not as cut and dried.
"The trouble for many adults with undiagnosed ADHD is that it can look like a lot of other mental health conditions, especially when it’s severe. “What we're discovering is that with many patients, before ADHD is recognised, they have already been given a range of other diagnoses and they're not always appropriate or correct,” says Philip Asherson, a professor of molecular psychiatry at King’s College London. “Some of the most common ones are personality disorder [and] bipolar disorder, and the other common ones are anxiety and depression.” BuzzFeed News, Missed Diagnosis ADHD
Things Aren't Always as They First Appear
You may meet someone with executive function issues and think they’re simply lazy or not living up to their promise.
They may even appear to be rude, disinterested or self absorbed.
Ugh…there are so many potential problems that face people with common executive functioning issues. Relationships with parents, teachers, friends and doctors are impacted. Inaccurate mental health assumptions may also be made, before executive function deficits are identified.
That’s why education is so important. With a little more information we will seriously reduce the number of Adults with undiagnosed ADHD. This will enable a plethora of people to get the help they need to live a more fulfilled life.
To get a better understanding how these characteristics come up everyday, let’s take a look at some things that are affected:
How Daily Life Is Impacted By Common Executive Functioning Issues
An inability to plan and strategize for the future:
If your thoughts are scattered and you’re unable to prioritize things it will be difficult to realize your full potential. Work, relationships and self care all hinge on one’s ability to plan for the future.
Acting on impulse, without regard to the consequences:
People with this trait, often lose friends, injure themselves, find interpersonal relationships difficult or fail academically. This is one of the most dangerous qualities because it’s often connected to risky behaviour such as drug and alcohol abuse.
It’s difficult if not impossible to complete tasks if you are distracted by other less important things in your immediate environment. Without the ability to prioritize life very difficult.
If you have a hard time with emotional control and switching gears, life probably isn’t easy for you. This may show up as inflexibility and this may hinder your work progress and social life.
If you can’t prioritize, organize and/or complete tasks you will have a tough time living a streamlined and complication free life. Maintaining your house, bills, employment, family and social life all require executive function to work properly.
"It is common for children and adolescents living with ADHD to develop unhealthy behaviour patterns at school and have difficulty doing well in their studies. Students may have a hard time understanding instructions, remembering what was learned, showing concern for others, sitting still in a classroom, and controlling impulse responses, among other challenges." ADHD & You, Impact of ADHD on Life
Learning About Undiagnosed ADHD
Now that you know a little bit more about the most common executive function issues and how they crop up for people who have them, I bet you can understand why so many aren’t diagnosed in adulthood.
Let’s face it, these are qualities that many of us have or symptoms of other mental health/substance abuse issues.
That’s why assessment and proper diagnosis is so important.
Sadly there is also a lot of misunderstanding. Many people think ADHD and ADD are childhood issues. In fact, some even believe that the complications connected to executive functioning can be remedied by simple self discipline.
Common Executive Functioning Issues Aren't Just for Kids
Well I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Executive function issues are a real problem for many adults and no amount of “buckling down” is going to help without some intervention. There are solid brain based reasons for their difficulties.
That being said, the good news is, the brain is plastic, which means there is help on the horizon!
…but I bet you are wondering what the heck that means!
Neuroplasticity: Help for Common Executive Functioning Issues
There is truly light at the end of the tunnel!
Because of the principles of neuroplasticity, people with executive function deficits can indeed retrain their brain.
There are simple tools that Holistic Neurodevelopment can teach you to help you manage adult ADHD and ADD!
Untreated Adult ADHD Doesn't Have to be a Way of Life
Untreated ADHD and ADD is far too common.
Part of the problem is there is not a systematized way to diagnose it. Checklists are passed out in school and everyone from guidance counselors to pediatricians are given the authority to make recommendations.
In a perfect world, ADHD would only be diagnosed by a specialist who has a vast amount of experience in the field.
There’s also a general lack of awareness in schools and in homes of what the symptoms are and what to do when they are identified.
I feel confident with a little education and some changes in the mental health field, we’ll be able to treat individuals who are living with untreated ADHD.
Holistic Neurodevelopment Can Help!
You don’t have to accept a life with the common executive functioning issues I described above.
What if told you that scattered thinking, disorganization and impulsive behaviors could be a thing of the past?
Well then, it’s your lucky day, because with dedication and some hard work, you can change your brain.
Don’t continue to live with undiagnosed adult ADHD or ADD. Give Holistic Neurodevelopment a call today!
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