ADHD – Executive Functioning (part 2)

Part 2: What is executive functioning?

In my last blog I looked at what it is like to live with ADHD. This blog examines what executive functioning is.

ADHD as an Executive Functioning Disorder

Exeuctive functioning is mainly coordinated by the prefrontal cortex in the brain. This part of the brain then coordinates with other parts of the brain.

Executive functioning begins to develop around age 2 and finishes around age 30.

Those with ADHD are generally 30-40% behind their peers in the development of executive functions.   

People with ADHD will generally have issues across the executive functions.


Many adults with ADHD have other co-morbidities (meaning another condition that happens at the same time) that also affect executive functioning.   You might even have more than one condition that impact on your executive functioning. For example, I also have anxiety and autism. This means that my issues with executive functioning are both complicated and compounded.

This is good to keep in mind when you are trying to apply strategies to address executive functioning. What is going to work brilliantly for some people may not work at all for others.

Executive functioning explained

Executive functioning are the processes that help us reason, problem solve and plan. The process parts of executive functioning are working memory, cognitive flexibility and inhibitory control.   

Working memory includes the ability to temporarily hold and manipulate information for cognitive tasks performed in daily life.   It’s a little bit like the RAM in your computer.    You can hold a limited amount of time in your working memory, on average maybe 5-7 items.  How well your working memory operates depends on your ability to control your attention.   

Cognitive flexibility refers to being flexible in your thinking. This includes seeing relationships between different things and ideas and being able to view concepts from different perspectives.   

Inhibitory control includes:   

  • self control 
  • being able to ignore distractions 
  • resist temptations 
  • regulation of emotions   

It keeps you from acting impulsively and is critical for avoiding faux pas and adhering to social norms. 

The tasks of executive functioning

These processes work together to do the tasks for executive functioning. The key jobs of executive functioning include:

  • paying attention 
  • organising and planning 
  • initiating tasks and remaining focused 
  • regulating emotions 
  • self monitoring 

In my next blog post – I will discuss what some of the things that you can do to manage and strengthen your executive functioning.

3 thoughts on “ADHD – Executive Functioning (part 2)

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

  2. Thanks Jacque. I think its very helpful to break down a complex concept like executive functioning into its components as you have here. The specific details make it much easier to understand how strengths and weaknesses in this area can affect our lives. I look forward to your post on what we can do to support our own executive function.

    Liked by 1 person

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