Executive Function Disorder In Adults: Symptoms And Treatment

Executive function refers to a wide group of mental skills that let people complete tasks, as well as interact and socialize with others. This includes paying attention, understanding different points of view, regulating emotions, organizing, planning, prioritizing, managing time, problem-solving, multitasking, remembering details, processing information, starting tasks and staying focused until completion and self-monitoring or keeping track of what you’re doing.

However, there are cases when a condition directly affects a person’s executive functions, impairing their ability to control their behavior and do something as simple as organize themselves. This condition is called executive function disorder.

Impaired cognitive skills

While executive function disorder is very much a real condition experienced by many, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not recognize it as a specific mental health condition. Rather, these impairments are said to be the result of mental health, neurological and behavioral disorders.

For example, suffering from Alzheimer’s may severely damage your executive functions, and you might lose the ability to drive or even behave appropriately in different situations. On that same logic, going through depression can also affect your memory, attention and even your overall inhibition controls.

Causes, symptoms and treatment

Other conditions that can lead to executive function disorder include anxiety, autism, Tourette's syndrome, schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, as well as any traumatic injuries made to the brain. However, not all of the reasons have to include a real condition, since simple reasons like boredom, alcohol and drug use can also lead to temporary executive function disorder. Other less serious reasons include stress, severe pain, anxiety and being in a distracting environment. 

Once a person suffers from executive function disorders, symptoms usually start showing. These may include short-term memory issues, trouble paying attention, trouble controlling emotions and impulses, inability to multitask, low motivation, acting inappropriately in social situations, difficulty in solving problems, low self-esteem and problems maintaining relationships.

Thankfully, there are treatments available, and many causes of executive function disorder are treatable. Depending on the condition impairing your executive function, the treatment may be occupational speech and therapy, antidepressants, stimulant medications or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

Dementia Positive attitudes towards aging, social stimulation, a healthy BMI, and adequate sleep have all been linked to a reduced risk of dementia. Anders Nord/Unsplash