ADHD – Executive Functioning (part 1)

Part 1: What is it like to live with ADHD?

If you have ADHD, you probably know that it can affect all areas of your life. We all tend to experience ADHD a bit different, but our struggles are underpinned by the same issues. Everyone with ADHD has some issues with executive functioning.

In this blog series I want to take a look at
1. What it is like to live with ADHD
2. What is executive functioning?
3. Some strategies for improving Executive Functioning.

What is it like to live with ADHD?

About 4% of the adult population is diagnosed with ADHD in Australia. Though as many people are only diagnosed as adults, this figure is likely to be higher.

Some of the ways that ADHD affects me is that:  
– I interrupt people I know this really annoys other people, and it’s something I struggle to control sometimes  
– I forget things. My keys.  Appointments.  What people have told me.   
– I impulse shop.  Food, clothes.  Stationery.  I could basically open a stationery store.  

There are some common threads that people with ADHD struggle with, and that is in part because ADHD affects our executive functioning. Research into ADHD adults as a cohort has found some specific things that we struggle with more than others. Some of these things may resonate with you. You might even say “Oh, I didn’t realise that was an ADHD thing”.  

Not all of these things will apply to you. This is because you are not just your ADHD. You also have your own unique strengths, talents and experiences which influences how you express ADHD in real life.

Let’s look at some of the things that we struggle with as those with ADHD. 


We struggle with money. Compared to those without ADHD we:

  • pay more late and overdraft fees  
  • are more likely to have a poor credit rating 
  • are more likely to be in debt 
  • engage in much more impulsive buying 
  • have more difficulty in saving money   

ADHD doesn’t just cost people who have ADHD, it also costs the economy.  Deloitte’s estimates that ADHD has a cost to the economy in Australia of about $20 billion.   


We struggle at work.  Compared to those without ADHD we

  • switch jobs more frequently due to disliking the job 
  • are more likely to be fired 
  • are more likely to work in unskilled work  
  • are more likely to be unemployed 


We struggle with our relationships.  In our relationships, ADHD:

  • negatively impact on intimacy 
  • leads to higher rates of conflict in relationships
  • leads to higher rates of relationship breakdown than those without ADHD  

Interestingly, studies showed that people with ADHD generally noticed less of the issues in the relationships. However, those without ADHD in a relationship with someone who has ADHD, really felt the impact of these things. 


We struggle with learning. Compared to those without ADHD: 

  • we experience higher school/university drop outs  
  • we have lower overall academic achievement 

Self Medicate 

Especially when we are undiagnosed, we self-medicate ourselves.  We use coffee, alcohol, other drugs to help regulate and manage ourselves.

Compared to those without ADHD, we are more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder.   

Self-Esteem and Self-Concept

These lifetime of struggles are going to affect how we view ourselves (self concept) and how we feel about ourselves (self esteem).   

This is exacerbated when we are perfectionists as well, because we hold very high expectations of ourselves. When we’re hard on ourselves we compare us to others – neurotypicals. We say “if they can do it, why can’t we?” Or even worse – that’s what we’re told by our parents, teachers and partners: “why can’t you be like a normal adult?”

Living in a world that is constantly focused on what we struggle with is demoralising.  And even more so when they don’t understand what ADHD is like.   

Not hopeless  

However, we are not hopeless or helpless, because there are things that we can do to improve ourselves and our lives!  

ADHD can be viewed, in part, as an executive functioning disorder. And because of that, knowing about executive functioning and what strategies we can implement can empower us to make meaningful changes in our lives to help us cope better.

In the next blog, I will discuss what executive functioning is. Then in Part 3, I will give some practical strategies to manage and strengthen your executive functioning.

5 thoughts on “ADHD – Executive Functioning (part 1)

  1. Pingback: ADHD – Executive Functioning (3 part series) | Strength Through Vulnerability

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