Lately, I’ve mentioned executive functioning problems a lot. Though executive functioning disorder (EFD) is not formally recognized, it is pretty common in individuals with ADHD, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders, particularly Asperger’s Syndrome. So what is executive functioning disorder?
First, let me explain what executive functioning is. Executive functioning is a set of mental processes that enable people to connect past experience to present actions. These processes include planning, organization, motivation, maintaining attention, anticipation of alternative consequences, and generalization of what has been learned. People with EFD have impairments in many of these areas. Thogh executive functioning is often related to attention, not all people with EFD also have attention deficit disorder.
Here are a number of characteristics of executive functioning disorder:
- Difficulty ad/or apparent lack of interest in setting goals.
- Difficulty initiating a task or generating ideas independently.
- Difficulty comprehending how much time a task will take.
- Troulbe telling a story (in spoken or written language) because of difficulty organizing details.
- Inability to stop and think of a strategy to solve a problem.
- Continuing to use the same strategy to solve a problem, even when it’s ineffective.
- Difficulty following instructions that consist of multiple steps.
- Swinging from impulsivity to rigidity.
- Difficulty handling change.
- Inability to reflect on past experience to plan for the future.
- Past consequences don’t effect future behavior.
- Little awarness of or interest in learning about personal limitations or weaknesses.
- Mood swings and emotional instability. May react to emotions rather than verbalizing feelings.
- Seeing personal problems as externally caused; inability to see one’s own contribution to a problem.
- Difficulty taking another person’s perspective.
- Risk-taking or thrill-seeking.
There are a number of situations in which a person’s executive functioning disorder may interfere with their academic, social and daily living skills. In the area of time management, I have a lot of difficulty thinking of what to do during the day. This is not because I have few obligations – oh well, that is part of the problem too -, but even when I have a lot to do, I can’t seem to organize or plan for it. I procrastinate, too, as do most people even without EFD, but in my case, it’s sometimes due to inability to organize an activity. Initiating an activity may also be a particularly hard skill for people with EFD. This is sometiems called inertia.
In the area of problem-solving, I have a hard time following instructions that aren’t spelled out. I don’t have troubl memorizing multiple steps, but they do need to be clearly stated. For example, last week, I was planning on going for a walk. I had my shoes off and the nurse told me to put on my shoes. I did, but I didn’t put on my coat. I am not particularly literal-minded, so that wasn’t really the problem. Now that I think of it, I realize that maybe besides sensory processing difficulties, EFD might contribute to why I have a hard time deciding on which clothes are appropritate for the weather. In school, I had specific rules on what to wear during specific tempetrautres. I have been in situatiosn where it was over 30_C and I was still wearing a sweater because I hadn’t watched the weather forecast.
Emotion regulation problems may or may not be due to EFD in my case, since borderline personality disorder causes these problems too, and I exhibit some stereotypical BPD reactions. Then again, low frustration tolerance, which is not per se a BPD characteristic, is definitely related to executive functioning, and this has always been said to be a core problem of mine.