ADHD and Executive Functions

In our last article, we talked about the 11 different executive functions. Hopefully, it helped shed some light on why your inner CEO may struggle to get things done. Today’s article will tie ADHD and Executive functions deficit. It will answer two questions in particular.

  1. Do people with ADHD struggle with all the Executive functioning skills?
  2. Do I have ADHD if I struggle with executive functioning skills?

The 11 executive functioning skills.

Executive functioning skills allow us to make things happen

In the previous article, we talked about 11 executive functioning skills. People who struggle with these skills are said to have executive function deficits. The 11 skills are;

  • Motivation
  • Procrastination and task initiation
  • Emotional self-regulation
  • Working memory
  • Time management and planning
  • Organization
  • Decision making
  • Metacognition/self-awareness
  • Flexible thinking
  • Self-control
  • Focused attention

There are two things to understand concerning executive function skills. First, different people may categorize these skills differently. Second, these skills are interconnected, so improving one skill can improve the others. This also implies that a deficit in one skill can worsen the others.

Question 1: Do people with ADHD struggle with all the Executive functioning skills?

ADHD and executive functions

All people with ADHD inherently struggle with executive functioning skills. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder meaning that it affects how the brain develops. We can safely conclude that all people with ADHD  face executive functioning challenges since these executive functions are brain functions.

Variations between individuals

I have once heard an ADHDer remark, ‘if you’ve met one person with ADHD, you’ve met one person with ADHD.’ This is very true. There are variations between the people with ADHD, and consequently, how the symptoms of the disorder manifest also vary. That is to say that the degree of Executive functioning deficits varies from individual to individual. 

Additionally, existing comorbidities (co-occurring conditions) like autism, OCD, Bipolar disorder, etc., may worsen the effects. Also, some people have created accommodations in their environment that improve specific executive functions, so their executive functioning challenges may not be as pronounced.

Question 2: Do I have ADHD if I struggle with some of the executive functioning skills?

Just because you have executive functioning deficits doesn’t mean you have ADHD

The simple answer is no. If you identified some of the executive functioning deficits in your own life, it does not automatically mean that you have ADHD. Many other conditions can lead to a person having executive functioning deficits, for example, Autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s, Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. You can also have executive functioning deficits and no disease or disorder.

Our brains do not develop as quickly as the rest of our bodies. Some studies suggest that our brain, specifically our prefrontal cortex, doesnt fully develop until our mid-20s, with other studies suggesting that it continues developing well into our late 20s. Since our brains are responsible for these executive functions, it is common to see people struggling with executive functioning skills even in adulthood.

How do I improve my executive functioning skills?

Improving your executive functions can be a work in progress

Whether you have ADHD or not, it is up to you to work on improving your executive functioning skills to manage yourself better. This means that you must take the time to understand the executive functioning skills you are struggling with. You then have to find ways to compensate for your struggles and improve these skills. There is no one-size-fits-all solution so expect to try different strategies before you find the one that works for you.

If this sounds overwhelming, you don’t have to do it alone. In future articles, we will look at each executive function skill individually, and I will share some tips, tricks, and strategies to help you improve your self-management.


People with ADHD naturally struggle with Executive functioning skills. Yet, not everyone who struggles with these skills has ADHD. Upon discovering that you are struggling with these skills, the best thing to do is try to understand them and find ways to improve or compensate for them.

If you or someone you know needs help understanding and working around their executive functioning skills, feel free to share my articles with them. Alternatively, you can reach out to me for one-on-one coaching so I can work with you to understand and troubleshoot any challenges you may have. You can learn more by visiting my service page.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share this article with someone you think may be interested.

Until next time.

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