It sounds a bit like a group of people in suits having cocktails, but Executive Function is the core of your every day life. A mental process, EF is the set of cognitive skills that keeps you on time, organized and in control of your life. When there is Executive Function Disorder,even simple tasks can become immensely difficult. EF is independent of intelligence. Individuals can have extremely high intellect and low functioning mental processes that control planning, time management, organization and impulse.
Almost every one at sometime has had “doorway amnesia”- when you walk into a room and cant remember what you came in for. Faced with a transition, your working memory has moved on and forgotten that thought, once you passed through the door, Someone with EF may struggle to write a phone number or address down as it is rattled off to them. Your working memory holds multiple pieces of information as you are manipulating them. Except, when it isn’t working. For most, distraction comes with a sudden loud noise, or an unexpected movement, something shiny. I can be distracted by my own thoughts. Trying to count anything usually results in something like this: 2,4,6,8 ( I wonder if I ate that banana this morning) 16, 18, 20, (oh in 20 minutes I need to get on that conference call) 32…. “oh crap! where was I??”
You see how that could be a challenge.
If you ask an adult with Executive Function Disorder to clean their apartment, or desk, or task them with organizing a cluttered mess, it can be akin to making the request to a 3 year old. With out the cognitive skills to break the project into manageable chunks it will quickly become overwhelming. If you ask a 3 year old child to clean his room with out simple direction you can reasonably expect to find him playing with his toys when you check on him in 5 or 10 minutes. I spend a lot of time playing with my toys.
In essence EF is your command center, The processes that work together to let you plan, organize, estimate the time a task takes, your mood and emotion, working memory, and impulse control all function with in each other and at times overlap.
Not having an appropriate braking system on your impulses can lead to substance abuse or other compulsions which often go hand in hand with Attention Deficit Disorder, or EFD. It is difficult to see the consequences of an action even when your intellect is telling you otherwise. It is like the old joke of having the devil sitting on one shoulder and an angel on the other.
Ironically the suggested tips for coping with EFD are the very same skills I have difficulty with. Recommending to me that I remove clutter and become better organized is a moot point. This is why I am researching strategies to cope with EFD, I have no organizational skills.
But the understanding that this is a neurological disorder is helping me to know, finally know.. I am not lazy. I am not incompetent. I just need to find better strategies to keep myself on task.