Executive Dysfunction: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment
The brain is a complex organ in the human body, contributing to many different aspects of our mental and physical makeup. If something isn’t functioning properly within the brain, you may struggle with certain tasks or activities in your daily life. One example is executive dysfunction, which impacts a number of people – especially those with previously diagnosed mood disorders such as ADHD or depression – and makes it difficult for them to work toward goals and achieve success. At NeuroHealth in Arlington Heights, our team has the resources to not only test for executive dysfunction, but to determine a treatment plan as well.
What Is Executive Dysfunction?
Executive function skills enable people to focus their attention, manage multiple tasks, plan, and remember instructions. These executive function skills are split into two main groups: regulation and organization. Regulation refers to the ability to take your surroundings into account and alter your behavior or actions in response to your surroundings. Organization refers to your ability to gather information and evaluate and structure it.
Executive Dysfunction – also referred to as Executive Function Disorder (EFD) – is when an individual lacks these critical regulation and organization skills, making it more difficult to plan ahead, solve problems, and manage time. Both adults and children can be affected by this disorder, although it’s particularly common in those with behavioral disorders such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In fact, according to ADDitude, an online magazine focused on ADHD, up to 90% of children with ADHD struggle with executive function skills. In addition to being secondary to a behavioral disorder, executive dysfunction is also incredibly common in individuals who have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Executive dysfunction can make it difficult to complete a wide range of tasks related to work and school as well as maintain positive and healthy relationships. If you struggle with this disorder, you may find it hard to switch your focus, remember details, multitask, manage your time, or complete tasks based on previous experience.
What Causes Executive Dysfunction?
There are many situations that may cause executive dysfunction. A person could simply be born with poor executive function skills, although this usually doesn’t become apparent until they reach an age where certain abilities are expected of them. Certain other disorders of the brain can also impact executive function skills, including learning disabilities, Dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, and depression. Physical injuries may also cause a decline in these skills, such as strokes and traumatic brain injuries, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Executive Dysfunction Symptoms in Children
Since executive dysfunction is common in those under the age of 18, it’s helpful to understand some of the most common executive dysfunction symptoms in children.
While executive dysfunction symptoms can vary, children who struggle with executive function may:
- have difficulty staying organized
- frequently misplace homework, schoolbooks, or other school materials
- have difficulty setting and keeping schedules
- get stuck on one solution to a problem, rather than coming up with additional ideas
- get distracted easily
- be disruptive in class
- struggle with instructions that have multiple steps
- struggle with procrastination and finishing tasks
In children, the signs of executive function disorder often become most pronounced in the transition from elementary school to middle school or middle school to high school. During this period in the educational process, the expectations and workload tend to increase. When a child or teen struggles with the ability to complete a task or achieve a goal, the struggle becomes more pronounced during this period.
Executive Dysfunction Symptoms in Adults
In adults, the symptoms of executive function disorder are similar to those in children, and can include:
- misplacing important items, such as keys, wallets, and cell phones
- difficulty keeping living spaces clean and organized.
- difficulty controlling emotions or impulses
- difficulty processing information
- trouble listening or paying attention
- short term memory issues
- socially inappropriate behavior
- inability to learn from past consequences
- inability to multitask or balance tasks
Executive dysfunction ultimately stems from issues with focus, dividing and distorting the focus centers of the brain and making it difficult to deal with what would normally be basic tasks. Because of this, many people view adults with undiagnosed executive dysfunction as simply being lazy, unfocused, or overemotional, making it even harder to overcome obstacles and achieve goals. If you think you are experiencing any symptoms of executive function disorder. it is important to get an official diagnosis and start a proper treatment plan.
Executive Dysfunction Testing
Before treating executive function disorder, the professionals at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights will perform a neuropsychological test, which is available to people of all ages. It’s important to note that we don’t administer the exact same test to everyone who presents with certain symptoms or concerns. Instead, we work with each patient individually to understand their presenting issues and create a plan that works. We also don’t believe in using curriculum-based measures when conducting assessments. Our team members take a more deductive approach to assessment, customizing the test to the individual needs. We can also become your advocate when it comes to managing school-related expectations.
Executive Dysfunction Treatment
After properly diagnosing the disorder, we can then begin working with you or your child to come up with a plan to treat executive function issues. One of the most common treatment options is using therapists and tutors to identify problem areas and figure out how to most effectively work around them. The professionals involved in this type of treatment might include occupational therapists, reading tutors, psychologists, and speech therapists.
Another treatment approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is often used in conjunction with medication to treat other conditions, such as ADD or ADHD. This approach tends to be more successful with older children and adolescents, as younger children have trouble altering their behavior too drastically.
It’s also helpful to redesign the environment in which the affected individual studies, learns, or works. This process may involve external memory tools, such as sticky notes, symbols, cards, or lists, which help them stay on task and focused. In children, external motivation may also help, such as a points system or a report card.
Contact NeuroHealth In Arlington Heights Today!
At NeuroHealth, our goal is to help those struggling with executive function disorder so they can achieve their goals and live happy, successful lives. We can provide testing, treatment, and other resources the Arlington Heights and the surrounding communities including Palatine, Des Plaines, Mt. Prospect, Schaumburg, and more. Our protocol is designed to benefit those who deal with this disorder and want to improve their abilities and day to day quality of life.
Get the help you deserve by contacting us today. We will ensure your testing, diagnosis, and treatment services move smoothly.