Executive Function Disorder in Adults: What You Need to Know

Do you know someone who has trouble with planning, problem-solving, organizing, managing time, and carrying out complex tasks?

If they exhibit these signs, they may have Executive Function Disorder, known as Executive Dysfunction. Executive dysfunction is a term used to describe a spectrum of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional impairments that frequently emerge as a result of another disorder or a traumatic brain injury.

We’ll discuss…

  1. What adult executive function disorder is and looks like
  2. Warning signs to look out for at home and at work
  3. Can it be treated and how to get help
You can learn more about executive functioning here as well as what you can do to improve cognitive function. There is always hope to overcome your executive function challenges, even in adulthood.
Executive Functioning for Adults

What are the Characteristics of Adult Executive Function Disorder?

The state of one’s mental health is far more complex than the average person realizes. Symptoms, diseases, and therapies all come in countless varieties. Add to that the fact that everyone’s mind is wired a little differently and you have a complicated mess of a problem.

Neglect by the healthcare industry to identify adults further muddles an already complicated issue. Adults can be notoriously difficult to diagnose, especially when it comes to conditions like executive function disorder.

There are trained professionals, such as speech-language pathologists, like those at Aphelia Speech, who can help you or a loved one overcome the difficulties in interpersonal and professional interactions brought on by executive dysfunction. Getting guidance to enhance your executive function skills will offer peace of mind that can come from knowing you are facing your problems head-on.

In this article, we will be discussing Executive Dysfunction, specifically how to identify the disorder’s symptoms and how to treat them. Are you prepared to get things underway? Keep reading.

What are Executive Function Skills

What are Executive Function Skills?

The term “executive function” refers to a group of higher-order mental skills that you can use to get things done more effectively. The frontal lobe is responsible for controlling executive function skills.

If you lack skills in executive function, it will be difficult for you to gather information, organize it for evaluation, as well as take stock of your surroundings and have the mental flexibility needed to adjust your behavior in response to them.

Although some adults may have picked up functioning skills or strategies to assist them in making up for their inability to meet their daily responsibilities, a significant number of adults continue to struggle and have worse performance at work and home due to this inability. Adults with low levels of the functioning skills necessary for everyday life are at increased risk of losing their jobs, experiencing a drop in their credit scores, and incurring tax filing penalties as a result of financial disorganization.

The following are the pros of having strong executive functioning:

    • Think critically about a job at hand.
    • Figure out a way to tackle the challenge.
    • Create an orderly plan for accomplishing the task.
    • Set deadlines for yourself to finish the job.
    • Allow yourself to be adaptable and have cognitive flexibility so that you can make the necessary changes to the plan as needed.
    • Meet a deadline or finish a task on time.
Who Is Likely To Suffer From An Executive Dysfunction

Who Is Likely To Suffer From An Executive Dysfunction?

Some people are born with weak executive functions.

People who have diagnoses such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or learning disabilities often have deficiencies in their executive functioning. It has been found that adults diagnosed with Obsessive-compulsive disorder OCD and bipolar disorder also have difficulties with executive functioning. Loss of executive functioning can also be the result of having suffered a brain injury, having had a stroke, or having Alzheimer’s disease-related damage which can affect multiple brain regions.

Although feelings of depression and anxiety are not required for someone to have Executive Dysfunction, they will likely be present at the same time. Oftentimes, adults will misjudge a child with Executive Dysfunction as being lazy or stupid, and the child will internalize those negative perceptions. In addition, when children realize that they are unable to keep up with the increasing demands placed on them in their academic work, this can lead to anxiety and a lack of confidence in themselves.

Warning Signs of Executive Dysfunction at Home

Warning Signs of Executive Dysfunction at Home

Home may be the first place you notice any of these, or other, Executive Dysfunction symptoms:

    • Your friend is talking on the phone or with someone else, so you have to wait a few minutes. Once it’s your turn to talk with them, you can’t remember what it was you wanted to ask.
    • Amid a conversation with a close friend, you find yourself struggling to keep up and frequently forgetting what was said just a few seconds ago.
    • If a task has multiple steps, such as doing laundry, running it through the dryer and folding, you will most likely forget a step.
    • You have to constantly go back and reread what you’ve already read because you just can’t retain it all at once.
    • You have a terrible habit of losing your phone, your keys or other small essential items.
    • It’s hard for you to strike a balance between work and personal life. It’s challenging to prioritize your time effectively when you’re also trying to pursue personal interests.
Difficulty Overcoming Certain Problems

Difficulty Overcoming Certain Problems

Many careers rely heavily on problem-solving skills, and you’ll need those skills in just about every facet of your life. Although the ability to solve problems is sufficiently general and not always a sign of trouble, having difficulties with basic problem-solving skills can be a symptom of Executive Dysfunction.

The term “problem-solving” can refer to a wide range of activities, including the study of mathematics in all of its forms and levels, as well as the comprehension of the connections between a large number of different variables.

The individual’s recurrence of these symptoms is the most reliable indicator of whether or not they may have this problem. Being perplexed by a problem every once in a while is not exactly a symptom, but struggling to analyze and resolve issues frequently may indicate an issue.

Trouble with Emotions

Trouble with Emotions

Dealing with one’s feelings is challenging enough. Many people in the modern world perceive emotional displays as unprofessional, unnecessary, or simply misunderstood.

Many people stuff their feelings down or choose to ignore them because they fear being misunderstood or criticized for expressing them. This can make people mistakenly think they have a symptom, especially if they haven’t grown up with proper emotional support because of abuse or trauma.

People with Executive Dysfunction often struggle to manage their feelings and act impulsively. Executive Dysfunction may be the cause of an individual’s inability to control impulsive behaviors or to refrain from making hasty decisions when faced with these challenges. This also applies to sudden shifts in mood or outbursts of emotion for seemingly no reason.

Various Social Issues

Reading the room and becoming accustomed to the social issues at hand are both challenging tasks in and of themselves. Poor social skills can be a symptom of, or a cause of, a wide range of mental disorders.

Many people who have Executive Dysfunction are prone to having poor responses in social situations. This is because they struggle to focus and are unable to take in an excessive amount of information at once.

Those struggling with these conditions are not necessarily isolated from society. It does indicate that they are at risk of getting the wrong emotional read on the situation or misreading the intentions of another person.

When this happens, it can cause a lot of problems and frustration in their relationships.

Warning Signs of Executive Dysfunction at Work

Warning Signs of Executive Dysfunction at Work

At work, you might notice some or all of the following manifestations of Executive Dysfunction:

    • Even though you’re always in a hurry to get to work in the morning, you’re almost always late.
    • At the end of your work day, you intend to finish some work that you brought home with you and pack up the items that you will need for the next day. As soon as you sit down to do the work, you remember that you left several necessary items at home.
    • You have a reputation for being a poor listener because you tend to ignore requests for assistance.
    • It’s difficult for you to recall the names of your coworkers, even if you’ve met them several times.
    • You find it hard to handle big projects. Step-by-step approaches still leave out details or cause you to spend unnecessary time on low-priority steps.
    • It is challenging to simply sit down and begin working on your assignments, even when there is a deadline looming over your head.
    • Your coworkers would label you as “easily frustrated.”

Seek professional medical or mental health help if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above Executive Dysfunction symptoms.

Short and Distracted Attention Span

When someone’s attention is diverted to something other than the presentation that you are giving them or the item that you are explaining to them, it can be an unfortunate situation.

While this may be a sign that someone is just plain rude, it may also be an indicator of a problem with executive functioning if it continues despite the individual’s demonstrable efforts to focus and learn.

People who suffer from this condition have a hard time concentrating on what they are doing at the moment. That’s not just for when you’re doing the talking or sharing; it applies whenever someone else is doing either. In most cases, the primary cause is simply a lack of emotional investment in the topic.

Inability to Multitask

People who are highly goal-oriented and strive for constant productivity are often capable of multitasking. For people with Executive Dysfunction, this is a formula for forgetfulness and losing focus.

This doesn’t mean that people with Executive Dysfunction are wrong or can’t get anything done. What this means is that they are best at doing one thing and doing it well, given the right training and skills.

No matter how much pressure you’re under, being unable to handle more than one task at a time is a strong indicator that you have Executive Dysfunction.

Can Executive Dysfunction Be Treated

Can Executive Dysfunction Be Treated?

Definitely! Assisting with the management of Executive Dysfunction symptoms can be done in several different ways, and support can be found in both

To determine which aspect of executive functioning needs to be addressed, professionals, such as psychologists, will most likely conduct an informal assessment. The subsequent sessions will emphasize honing specific skills and developing specific strategies to enhance day-to-day functioning.

Remember that Executive Dysfunction can coexist with ADD/ADHD and other disorders. Seek out a thorough neuropsychological evaluation if you suspect Executive Dysfunction so that a proper diagnosis and treatment plan can be established.

While stimulant medications have shown promise in treating some symptoms of executive dysfunction, there is currently no medication available to address the underlying cause of executive functioning difficulties.

Working with a therapist or coach can help you become more efficient with your time, reduce the likelihood of misplacing important documents, and develop more effective routines in the workplace. Self-monitoring of thoughts and actions is facilitated by cognitive behavioral therapy, and appropriate responses to social situations are learned with the aid of social skills training.

Getting the Help You Need

Getting the Help You Need

Learning to recognize the symptoms of Executive Dysfunction in adults is a significant step toward assisting other people in regaining control of their lives and finding a solution to the problems they are facing.

While many believe that kids are more open to learning and altering their behavior, adults can also adapt their behavior if they are willing and motivated to overcome their challenges. Connecting with a specialist is all that’s required.

At Apheleia, we’ve made it our mission to dissect and alleviate executive function problems through the use of powerful training tools. To create a successful speech therapy plan, we will assist you in determining your specific difficulties and goals to overcome them.

To get started right away and find out the answers to your questions, book a 20-min online consultation today and take the first step to feel better.

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Lauren Templeton - Apheleia Speech Therapy
Lauren Templeton

Owner & Speech-Language Pathologist

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