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ADHD and Executive Functioning: What You Need to Know

Online Therapy for Adhd

Do you often feel like you're constantly juggling a million things simultaneously?

Are there areas of your life where you feel like you're just not reaching your potential?

Do you ever feel like you're just a little bit behind?

That everything comes to you a little slower than it does to everyone else?

You're not alone.

According to the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Association, 4% of adults have ADHD. And while ADHD manifests itself in different ways, one of the most common symptoms is difficulty with executive functioning.

So what exactly is executive functioning and what can you do if it's something you struggle with? Keep reading to find out.

What is Executive Functioning?

Not to be confused with the executive branch of government, executive functioning refers to a set of cognitive skills that allow us to plan, organize, and complete tasks. These skills are controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain and include abilities like working memory, time management, flexibility, and goal-oriented thinking.

This set of abilities allows us to complete complex tasks at work or school, and stay on task in spite of distractions.

Executive functions include the ability to:

  • Monitor our own thoughts and actions

  • Shift focus and attention as needed

  • Manage time and set priorities

  • Stay organized

  • Regulate emotions

  • Control impulses

How Does ADHD Impact Executive Functioning?

There are a few ways in which ADHD can negatively impact executive functioning skills.

For one, people with ADHD often have trouble with short-term memory and focusing on tasks at hand. This means that they have trouble remembering things that happened recently, or forgetting important information. This can make it difficult to manage everyday life.

Additionally, people with ADHD tend to be impulsive and easily distracted, which can impact their executive functioning skills. For example, someone with ADHD may have a hard time completing a project because they are easily distracted and may not be able to stay focused on the task at hand. Or, they may struggle to stay organized and may have a hard time planning out their day.

People with ADHD may also have difficulty with emotional regulation. This means that they may struggle with controlling their reactions in certain situations or managing their stress levels effectively. This can make it difficult for them to function effectively in social situations, and it can also lead to problems in their personal lives.

Change in mood can cause a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder or depression.

However, people with ADHD often excel at creative thinking and problem solving.

They may be able to come up with new ideas quickly, but have difficulty implementing them. This can lead to frustration, as they may be well aware of what they need to do, but have difficulty doing it.

What Can You Do About It?

If you have ADHD and are struggling with executive functioning skills, there are a few things you can do to help mitigate its effects.

First, try to break down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. This will make it easier for you to focus on each individual step and see your progress as you go.

Additionally, make sure to set realistic goals for yourself and build in regular breaks throughout the day so that you don't get overwhelmed or burnt out.

Lastly, try to find an activity or hobby that helps you relax and de-stress—this could be something as simple as taking a walk outside or listening to music.

Remember, it takes time and practice to improve your executive functioning skills.

In an article from, those with executive dysfunction “need to be continually challenged — not just [their skills] used — to see improvements. (That goes for both children and adults.)”

Seeking professional help from a licensed therapist is a great way to not only gain more knowledge about these sets of skills, but to also gain consistent accountability as you grow in the grace of managing your diagnosis.

A therapist can also help encourage you to what specific exercises can help you not only manage, but improve, your executive functioning skills.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how to improve executive functioning skills. However, research suggests that certain brain games may help to improve specific skills related to executive functioning. For example, some games may help to improve working memory, while others may help to improve problem-solving skills.

Additionally, some games may be more effective for older adults, while others may be more effective for young adults.

Ultimately, the best way to improve executive functioning skills is to engage in activities that are specifically designed to target those skills. By regularly challenging the brain with puzzles and other exercises that require executive functioning skills, it is possible to make lasting improvements in those skills. Brain games provide an ideal way to do this, as they can be played at any time and from any location. In addition, many brain games are free or low-cost, making them accessible to everyone.


Executive functioning is something that can be extremely difficult for people with ADHD.

If you are the parent of a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, or if you have been recently diagnosed with ADHD yourself, it’s important to understand what executive functioning is and how it might be impacting your life.

There are things that you can do to help support better executive functioning skills, and we’re here to help.

Reach out to us if you have any questions about executive functioning and ADHD, or if you would like to schedule a consultation.

We’d love to help!

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