Executive Function ADHD: How To Tell The Difference?

The relation between executive functions, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and how they work in the brain is significant to understand yourself better. They have many connections in how they affect people and their performance in life. Symptoms are commonly linked to deficits in executive functions. ADHD is a clinically diagnosed brain disorder while executive dysfunction, or even executive function disorder,” is not—despite the name. It is solely a deficit.

Instead, an executive function disorder is described as the inability to use skills to attain goals or complete everyday tasks, while ADHD is mainly centered on focus, impulse control, and holding attention. To elaborate more, individuals can have issues with executive functioning, but having an executive functioning disorder does not always mean a person has ADD or ADHD. In understanding more about those living with both, it’s necessary to take a look into when they begin and how they develop.

When Do They Begin?

For an adult with ADHD it may have run in the family, come from complications during development or from their surroundings. Regardless, it begins in childhood with 60-90% of kids shown to not outgrow it and continue to have it as an adult. Executive function skills develop as early as 3 years old and build over time. However, studies show kids to be about 30-40% behind in their ability to switch through executive function skills. This may carry on into adulthood, as studies show similar symptoms in children and adults with ADHD. No matter the age or how it developed, it can be improved by learning organization and management strategies. Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder tend to feel “stuck,” or that it’s too late to improve as they’ve lived with these complications and have fixed thought patterns built over the years. It’s important to know what signs you recognized growing up and now into adolescence to learn more about improving one or both.

Symptoms of ADHD and Symptoms of Executive Function Disorder

Some shared symptoms:

  • Trouble staying focused, easily distracted
  • Impulsive acting or behavior
  • Poor memory and forgetfulness
  • Difficulty staying organized
  • Difficulty managing time
  • Difficulty controlling emotions

Above is listed some commonly shared symptoms between ADHD and executive functioning disorders. Executive functions skills give you the ability to handle emotions, tasks, and keep organized. These skills can be applied to common ADHD struggles such as anxiety, impulsive behavior, or staying focused. Many adults feel discouraged, or question “How to improve executive function in ADHD adults?” They may believe it’s too late to break habits, have had poor experiences in improving their life, or don’t know where to start. However, it’s never too late to develop executive functions and structure in life. One solution is guidance from an executive functions coach. With a professional, training can help you set goals, and change your lifestyle and thinking patterns even as an adult. This is the same for children and teens. Training executive functions and ADHD has no age limit, and in fact is meant to teach you skills to carry on throughout your life. When working with an EF coach, you’ll receive constant mental and emotional support during your training. We break down what to expect during a coaching session.

How to Improve Executive Function ADHD in Adults

No matter how severe, executive functions ADHD can always be improved. When looking for executive function training for ADHD, it’s important to find an executive functions coach that understands your needs. In the case of adult executive functioning and ADHD coaching, it’s often found that  their executive function skills are the results of years of habits. As it’s become a lifestyle, they’ve found themselves unable to break these patterns or have tried treatment in youth but didn’t have success. 

 So, how do you improve these skills? Firstly, an executive functions coach should assess the history of your ADHD problems or EF deficits. Processing how these events affected you emotionally and mentally is also important. Sessions are largely personalized. Therefore, how an EF coach helps you structure your life and what strategies they teach are dependent on the individual. An EF coach will help you devise a schedule to reach your goals and teach applicable skills. Remember, success in life is attainable even with executive functioning ADHD.

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