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Executive Dysfunction

Since executive dysfunction is a really common part of a lot of conditions (I have a triple dose, from three different conditions) I thought it might be good to have a thread on it, both for sharing experiences and for sharing tricks that help you get past it.


So here it is!


Re: Executive Dysfunction

And some info on it for anyone who hasn't heard of it:


Executive functions are a set of skills that help with:

  • Paying attention/ focus

  • Prioritizing tasks
  • Starting on and planning tasks
  • Regulating emotions
  • Staying on track
  • Remembering stuff you just heard
  • Organizing thoughts (and belongings. And time)


Executive dysfunction is when stuff like that gets a lot more difficult.

It's pretty much universal in people with ADD/ ADHD, and also really common in people with autism, depression and psychosis, among others.


Re: Executive Dysfunction

Thanks for making this thread @Tiny_leaf!


Here's how I sometimes experience executive dysfunction:


-when I've had school/uni assignments just lying there thinking and stressing about how I really need to start them but being unable to until it's a few hours before it's due and /hopefully/ an adrenaline rush will kick in that I'll use to start it

-when my husband used to be away a lot for work I would really struggle with being able to do all the tasks that would let me eat. Grocery shopping was overwhelming- getting dressed, finding wallet, getting in car, driving, getting out of car, picking appropriate trolley/basket, figuring out what food I need, walking around trying to find it all, picking shortest line, engaging in small talk, getting it into car, returning trolley, driving home, unpacking car, putting it all away. Plus: cleaning dishes so I have enough to cook/prepare food, all the steps involved in food prep... It meant that a lot of the time it just felt too hard and I just didn't eat instead.

-I often find it hard to shower. Finding clothes to wear afterwards, finding my towel, getting undressed (probably being unpleasantly cold), transitioning to being wet, if I don't have my face wash it just making me feel worse because I wasted energy and my face still feels oily, it being cold again getting out of the shower, now being committed to drying myself, getting dressed again... Tasks with lots of sensory transitions like showering can be hard, especially when I'm already depleted on energy. Teeth brushing too when I'm really tired

-responding to texts/messages. I get stressed and confused overanalysing what they mean/want, what I think and want to say, how to say it in a way that will make sense/properly express what I want to say/won't upset them. I can't find a perfect solution so I just put it off and stress about it for days, then there's the added element of offending/confusing them by not responding soon enough I also need to figure out how to address. Facebook messages I rarely open for months (if ever) because they'll know I've seen it and that adds pressure and I know this process will start when I read it. It makes maintaining friendships hard.

-when I've been doing water related work stuff (generally meaning I don't have pockets) always forgetting where I put down the keys resulting in work drama

-being terrified before doing work tasks I'm not used to/something is different because I know I'll get confused and struggle to keep track of what I need to do if I haven't done it many times and losing sleep because I'm trying to drill it into my brain what I need to do so I don't forget when I'm doing it

-generally when I've got things that I have to do and do well (eg I'm working), my capacity to do other tasks (eg self care, shower, cleaning, cooking, socialising) plummets.

-I find sudden changes really stressful because I've prepared myself for one thing and it's really hard to adjust. This can be a bigger thing like "the times and activities you'll be doing at work have completely changed today, these are your new expectations" (my response: aah what do I need to change about my clothes/equipment, who do I need to communicate with, where am I when, I'm not ready, I haven't prepared for this I don't know if I can do it well); or a smaller thing like my husband saying 'hang on I've just gotta finish this' if I've made dinner and it's ready (my response: aah will it go cold, will I need to microwave it, will that make it soggy, do I go sit down or stand in the kitchen, how long will he be, do I serve up, I was mentally prepared to eat now and I'm not sure what to do instead, what can I start that I'll be fine just leaving when he's ready)


I think I'll make a new post saying ways I've found to help deal with executive dysfunction, this has turned out pretty long. But helpful, sometimes I've been a bit confused what executive dysfunction is, and if I have it or if I'm just lazy/incompetent


Re: Executive Dysfunction

Things I've found that help with executive dysfunction:


-sharing struggles and experiences with my husband (who finds practical ways to help like bringing me food when I'm overwhelmed. When he was away once he ordered online delivery groceries with easy to eat food to our house)

-click and collect groceries, now I just show up and sign and they bring me the trolley

-have a menu where the nights I'm cooking stay the same and I cook the same things I'm comfortable with

- when I've been alone and not eaten in days and with a uni assignment I had to do getting drive thru Macca's (gave me sustenance I enjoyed, got me dressed and out of the house, kickstarted functioning again)

-having tasty (ideally healthy), low prep food in the house

-having easy freezer meals as a backup for busy weeks

-putting on music or an audiobook to focus on and just doing one small manageable cleaning task to start (then usually another, and another)

- having rest days with low expectations of myself after busy days/periods

-initiating something with friends when I'm ready, making an effort when I do have the energy rather than assuming they hate me for not responding and never contacting them again

- writing down a plan in advance for confusing work days, and checking in with a work person if it sounds ok, then trying not to think about it till then

-build fun things into my routine so I do things that make me happy without having to think too much

- planning gaps between classes into my uni timetable, and using them to work on assignments even if they're not due for ages (eg week 1 read/understand task, week 2 write headings, write down points I've thought of, week 3 turn into sentences/ paragraphs and add any extra points I've thought of...)

-ask for accommodations (in the process of this, I'll let you know if it helps!)

-washing my face/pits in the sink if showering is too hard

-writing down short manageable lists of tasks for a day and crossing them off (with a plan of something fun/restful for after). Just if I think it would help that day


I'll post more if I think of them/ as I discover them. Would love to hear other people's


Re: Executive Dysfunction

Hi @hellofriend, thanks for sharing your experience. I think you have provided really valuable insight and have done a great job of conceptualising what this is like for you. I really believe the community will find this beneficial Smiley Happy Those who struggle with executive dysfunction may find comfort and relief in reading a similar experience. People who are unaware of what executive dysfunction is also now have a detailed and informative example of what it may look like for some people Heart


Re: Executive Dysfunction

@hellofriend these are brilliant!!


Re: Executive Dysfunction

Thanks guys!


I also recently watched Frozen 2 and really liked the song and concept  'The Next Right Thing'. Basically in daunting and overwhelming times (which with executive dysfunction can be just everyday life) just focusing on doing the next right thing- one small step that will move you in a positive direction. I really like that idea and find it really helpful and encouraging


Re: Executive Dysfunction

This is a really helpful thread @Tiny_leaf! Smiley Happy I personally found that keeping a lot of calendars, journals (both physical and as apps) and note-taking apps are helpful for me. Sometimes, breaking down tasks into sections can help too. I also use apps to remind myself when I have appointments, need to take medication or if I have something on.
Something I've also found helpful when I'm feeling tired is practicing breathing in and out for a few minutes. I tried doing this yesterday and it helped me feel more refreshed.
There is also an online tool I've used sometimes when I'm feeling sluggish or low.

@hellofriend  I love the message of that song! Smiley Happy


Re: Executive Dysfunction

Wow so I meant to post this ages ago but guess what happened...


Anyway, this is courtesy of a guy on Twitter who has ADHD (though it should work for any executive dysfunction) which I found really cool.

He writes his morning and evening routine onto boxes, and puts stuff like meds, essential oils, his phone charger, ect. into the boxes 





Re: Executive Dysfunction

Hey @Tiny_leaf 


This is an incredible thread. You such a wonderful leader on the forums and this is just one of the examples of you taking initiative to make this space inclusive for everyone. 


Good work Heart