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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS
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Author Topic: What is meant by diminished executive function (poor executive control)?  (Read 43930 times)
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« on: August 22, 2008, 08:47:57 PM »

People affected by Borderline Personality Disorder generally have diminished executive functions.

Executive functions and cognitive control are terms used by psychologists and neuroscientists to describe a loosely defined collection of brain processes whose role is to guide thought and behavior in accordance with a persons goals or plans.

Often the executive functions are invoked when it is necessary to override immediate stimuli that may be in conflict with the goals or plans.

For example, on being presented with an insult, the automatic response might be to retaliate. However, where this behavior conflicts with internal plans (such as wanting to be "level headed"), the executive functions could engage to inhibit the retaliation.

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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2008, 10:05:15 AM »

This makes perfect sense to me. My executive functions have been "out of order" for the duration of my relationship with a potential BP.

I do feel though that with my search for answers and eventual stumbling upon this forum, the bigger perspective has forced me to review my own habits and understand that I have been a willing participant and "dance partner".

I believe that this is why many refer to their experience as an important component in their own journey's as ultimately, with improved understanding, we become better people in our own right and learn the value of executive control.

Anyone who, in hindsight, regrets their involvement with a person who demonstates these behaviours is unfortunately missing this opportunity for personal growth.

I understand that this question was asked in the context of the person with the disorder, I am simply suggesting that we can take on this characteristic when enmeshed as well.
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« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2008, 01:33:06 PM »

This is also sometimes called impulse control--impulsiveness being one of the defining characteristics of BPD. This is biologically based. When you're talking about "biologically based," it means either or both:* The chemical brain--neurotransmitters and such.* The physical brain--what you can hold in your hand in a labImpulsivity can be passed genetically and is associated with many BPD traits, including rage, emotional instability, suicidal thoughts, and self-injury. Impulsiveness + rage= impulsive aggression or the "border-lion," which I talk about in my new book, The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder. Warmly,Randi
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« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2011, 08:52:15 PM »

my daughter, 14 was diagnosed odd at age 10.5, emerging BPD at age 12, mdd at age 12 and developed psychotic features at 13...the therapist at the rtc she was in for 9.5 months suspected she may have add/adhd...we began neurofeedback therapy a few weeks ago...had the tova test where my d14 scored "borderline adhd"...she is much more "impulsive" than hyper or attention deficit.  we will see if the therapy makes a big difference.

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« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2011, 12:21:50 PM »

My ex-wife's executive function and impulse control capacities are completely undermined when she drinks, and I do mean completely. When not drinking (during the day or if she has to drive), these otherwise comport with standard BPD behavior, which I suppose is something of a conundrum. For example, when she leaves work to pick up her boy-toy for the weekend stay at her house, she is obviously exercising an appropriate (for her) level of executive function. But when she hits on and kisses a married friend of forty years under the influence of his Lord Calvert, maybe not so much. I really dunno where the executive function begins and ends with BPD, except of course that it certainly ends with her drinking, and as she does this every night I suppose the loss of EF began sooner, as a symptom of her BPD.

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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2011, 06:10:04 PM »

In recent years, neuropsychologists have located a set of brain areas located in the frontal lobe (around the forehead) of humans that support self-control processes. These so-called “executive functions”, which were the last bit of our brain to evolve, involve the ability to plan, inhibit, or delay responding. Whenever someone must focus hard on a task and ignore distractions, this area is particularly active. The extent to which these areas of the brain light up predicts a lot of important outcomes, including whether people are likely to follow the rule norms of society, resist a wide variety of temptations, and engage in risky behaviors. Executive control even predicts the ability to resist the urge to eat M&M’s when on a diet

www.counsellingcentral.com/why-dont-we-all-cheat-on-our-partners-the-importance-of-executive-control/

Now it makes more sense...and is more worrying sad
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« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2011, 03:51:20 PM »

This makes perfect sense to me. My executive functions have been "out of order" for the duration of my relationship with a potential BP.

I do feel though that with my search for answers and eventual stumbling upon this forum, the bigger perspective has forced me to review my own habits and understand that I have been a willing participant and "dance partner".

I believe that this is why many refer to their experience as an important component in their own journey's as ultimately, with improved understanding, we become better people in our own right and learn the value of executive control.

Anyone who, in hindsight, regrets their involvement with a person who demonstates these behaviours is unfortunately missing this opportunity for personal growth.

I understand that this question was asked in the context of the person with the disorder, I am simply suggesting that we can take on this characteristic when enmeshed as well.

I really appreciated this response. I too never wanted to pass the buck on taking responsibility for my own loss of executive control in dealing with my exBPDbf, but I do know certainly that it was enhanced or affected by being in that relationship. I often felt like I had to do the same things he did in order to be heard by him.  His rages were so thunderous I would feel drowned out, forced to compete for a space to occupy in the exchange of ideas.

It reminds me of how people say that you can become your worst version of yourself in a bad relationship, or if it brings out the worst in you...also made me think of those phrases: "when you play with children, you end up in the sandbox" or "when u mess with trash, you end up getting dirty"...Not to call BPDs children or trash exactly, but the sentiment is there - you engage with someone and the more you attempt to speak their language you end up crossing a line into the way that they communicate.

I definitely witnessed this lack of executive function in my BPDex many times, and most certainly after drinking. Even 1-2 drinks I would see clear effect in his behavior. He would be quick to say "Im not drunk" like it was SO out of question. But I could see it clear as day. There would be no restraint in driving his most inner-desired thought processes and instinctual behaviors.

A facinating topic.
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« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2011, 11:05:34 PM »

Why is it that many BPD's seem to be unable to logically reason out the consequences of their decisions, even though they may be intelligent and successful? For instance, they think they can spend all their money and somehow they will magically get more, or they can stay up all night and somehow they will get through work the next day (and the next and the next), or they can abuse the rules of etiquette (as well as their loved ones) and "it will be fine."  These kinds of things should be no-brainers.  But even smart BPD's seem to lose their ability to reason or plan ahead.  What triggers this?  My uBPDD18 breezed through two semesters of calculus and chemistry.  She can make a coherent logical argument in a well written essay.  She can take care of her horse, plan his training and care, and pay his board on time. She can obviously reason - but only some of the time.  When a personal relationship isn't working, or when she wants something and wants it NOW, all reasoning seems to disappear.  It goes way beyond normal 18 year old impulsivity or emotional immaturity.  She can lie to my face, knowing that I know the truth, and still continue to lie.  Once she insisted that a pair of guy's shoes next to her door were not guy's shoes, and another time that a bent rim on the car wasn't bent.   She will lie when there is nothing to gain by it, and she will spend every penny on anything she wants, even knowing that more bills are coming up.  Sure, everyone does irrational things some of the time, but usually we know when we've done it and most likely we will admit it and face the consequences.  She doesn't even know.  But she can do calc problems or debate religious philosophies.  How does that happen?
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« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2011, 11:03:09 AM »

pwBPD, high functioning ones, can operate in a "normal" capacity when emotions are not involved...when emotions are involved...that is when trouble strikes shocked
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« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2014, 07:25:49 PM »

There is some irony in my life regarding this topic.

My dxBPDh lack of impulse control or executive function wreaked havoc in my life. Yet within the safety of the insane relationship chaos, I released my own inhibitions for a year or so in the latter part of our relationship. I allowed myself the option to do whatever I was feeling regardless of consequence even if it hurt those around me. I gave him some (verbal) abuse back to him during this period. Now, I know this was my chance to validate the dark side of my ego ~ what I think kids do in healthier families as they are growing up (temper tantrums, biting other kids in day care, revenge, etc.) not as adults/parents with major responsibility. Without my ex, how would I have had this chance?

So my ex's lack of executive function led to me removing my executive function which led to me having a now more authentic and stronger executive function.

A major reason why my executive function is more authentic and stronger now is because I proved to myself I can choose another option. I have the freedom and ability to do what I want when I want.

I am grateful to me for having the courage to go through this internal battle and to my ex even after all of the abuse (which by the way, is soo much better now - hallelujah  although not living together helps  wink) for providing a "safe" environment for me to let loose.

I don't know if ozzy is still around but I agree with him:

This makes perfect sense to me. My executive functions have been "out of order" for the duration of my relationship with a potential BP.

I do feel though that with my search for answers and eventual stumbling upon this forum, the bigger perspective has forced me to review my own habits and understand that I have been a willing participant and "dance partner".

I believe that this is why many refer to their experience as an important component in their own journey's as ultimately, with improved understanding, we become better people in our own right and learn the value of executive control.

Anyone who, in hindsight, regrets their involvement with a person who demonstates these behaviours is unfortunately missing this opportunity for personal growth.

I understand that this question was asked in the context of the person with the disorder, I am simply suggesting that we can take on this characteristic when enmeshed as well.

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« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2015, 05:23:26 PM »

Hi there. I am wondering if anyone here feels they have poor executive functioning?

Executive functioning is the new “hot” umbrella term used by teachers, counselors, and parents to describe a range of learning and attentional problems. Recent neuroscientific research on children and adults implicate failed executive functions, or their lack of engagement, not only in school-related performance issues, but in dysregulated emotional states experienced by those without executive function deficits. Such states are characterized by limited capacity for thought and reflection and automatic, reflexive reactions (Ford, 2010), similar to children with executive function deficits.

Executive functioning is slow to fully develop. It emerges in late infancy, goes through marked changes during the ages of 2 through 6, and does not peak until around age 25. Adolescents’ limited executive functions are out of sync with their emerging freedom, sense of autonomy, intense emotions and sexual drive, failing to equip them with the reins needed to for appropriate restraint and good judgment during this time of temptation. When teens are unable to put the brakes on, they need parents to set external limits and be the stand-in for their underdeveloped executive functions.

Similarly, children with executive function deficits need external cues, prompts and reinformcements to supplant the self-regulatory functions they are lacking internally (Barkley, 2010).

Executive development happens primarily in the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain more sensitive to stress than any other. Unlike anywhere else in the brain, even mild stress can flood the prefrontal cortex with the neurotransmitter dopamine, which causes executive functioning to shut down (Diamond, 2010).

Executive functions include cognitive flexibility, self-control, working memory, planning & self-awareness

What are executive functions anyway? Executive functions together play the role of executive director of the brain — making decisions, organizing, strategizing, monitoring performance and knowing when to start, stop, and shift gears (Cox, 2007, Zelazo, 2010). Executive functioning is essentially the conscious regulation of thought, emotion, and behavior (Zelazo, 2010). It is different from what we usually think of as intelligence, because it is independent of how much we know. It is an aspect of intelligence in that it involves expressing or translating what we know into action (Zelazo, 2010). One can be exceedingly bright but not be able to access and apply knowledge if there is limited executive function.

Key executive functions are: cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control (self-control), working memory, planning, and self-awareness (Zelazo, 2010). Without cognitive flexibility we cannot change our minds, shift attention or perspective, flexibly adapt to changes, see another point of view, solve problems or be creative. The ability to inhibit or control our impulses involves the capacity to stop and think and not act on our first instinct, but, instead, do what is needed or most appropriate. It allows us to direct our attention and be disciplined enough to stay on task even in the face of temptation and distraction, instead of being controlled by habit, feelings and external cues (Zelazo, 2010).

The ability to resist temptation and stay on task is the foundation of planning and being able to follow through on a plan. Additionally, the ability to plan involves being able to anticipate and reflect on the future, keep a goal in mind, and use reasoning to develop a strategy. Working memory allows us to follow instructions involving multiple steps and do them in the right order. It allows us to hold things in mind while relating one thing to another. This capacity allows us to follow a conversaton while keeping in mind what we want to say. It enables us to relate to something we’re learning to other things we know. It allows us to recognize cause and effect which, as research has shown, is essential to understanding other people’s reactions to us (Diamond, 2010). For example other people’s reactions may not make sense if we don’t remember what we said or did that led to it.

Self-awareness involves the ability to observe and monitor our performance so that we can make appropriate adjustments. It is the basis for regulating emotional expression and behavior. Self-awareness involves holding in mind a sense of ourselves, allowing us to have appropriate expections of ourselves, and learn from what we have done before.

A common denominator and basis of all executive functioning is the ability to hold things in mind, step back and reflect. Without this capacity, it is difficult to have perspective, judgment, or control. Studies with children at different ages before and after executive development is in place demonstrate that without being able to inhibit impulses and distractions and hold multiple things in mind, even if we know what to do and want to do the right thing, that intention may not translate into behavior (Diamond, 2010; Zelazo, 2010). Therefore, admonishing or punishing children who are not following the rules because of limited executive function is not only ineffective, but leads children who are already often frustrated and discouraged to feel bad about themselves and unsupported. In order to intervene effectively with children, we must diagnose the problem accurately to determine when an issue is due to executive function deficit and not simply adolescent laziness or rebellion.

Part 2 tells the story of a boy with executive functioning deficits and his parents to highlight common experiences in families stressed by this problem and explain what’s happening in children’s minds. Finally, the column addresses how best to help support children with these issues and offers tips for parents.
www.psychcentral.com/lib/executive-function-problem-or-just-a-lazy-kid-part-1/
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« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2015, 11:10:43 PM »

It almost sounds like they are talking about children with BPD traits themselves "poor executive control." Of course, what we colloquially call here "fleas" mean traits. I have hermit traits from my mom.

When I was a kid, I had problems concentrating in school... I was smart enough to pass tests, but hated homework. My mom and several teachers over the years complained that I was a day dreamer. School was bad (due to often severe bullying which I can remember back to kindergarten, but for a reason having nothing to do with this board), and when I wasn't abandoned being a latch key kid, I was dealing with my mother's rages, and as I later found out, depression.

My issue was more childhood depression, and detachment from life. Other than a pyro stage I went through, I was more acting in rather than acting out.

For what it's worth, escaping her home on emancipation day, I flourished more than not. Other than a form of social anxiety which lasted into my mid 30s, I started doing well years before I was 25. I do well for myself, far above average, but the social anxiety and depression did limit me to my potential.

I was adopted at 32 months by my dBPD mom.  My birth mother was likely FAS, and maybe BPD herself. My mom found out she died of an overdose when I was around 9. It may have been likely I was abused as a baby before I went into my brief stint in foster care.
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« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2015, 12:49:46 AM »

I had an uBPD mom.  I have executive functioning issues that present similar to inattentive ADD, however, I suspect are actually due to c-PTSD and the neurological rewiring that occurs from being in constant survival mode for so many years.  I have definite issues with both short term and long term memory, planning, & organization, however, my self control and self awareness are well intact.  I feel sometimes I get stuck in a conversation that starts out fine, then I have a "hiccup" or get lost occasionally.  I can compensate for much of the planning and organizational issues with much effort.  What I think is unique about my in attentiveness and likely makes it more characteristic of c-PTSD is the extreme variation and fluctuation of functioning based on stress levels. My focus and memory issues change throughout the week and throughout the day. 
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« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2015, 07:09:48 AM »

This is an interesting topic.

In some ways I hear gongs going off - recently discussed my slowness to understand when I have been insulted or my slowness to recognise when i am angry. It can take several days for these things to seep in. I theorise, like Sunflower that it is related to CPTSD - underdeveloped limbic function. But then I am extremely good at picking up facial cues and body postures which denote happiness, joy, irritation etc. I have a real knack for knowing when someone is mad at anyone or even just doesn't like them (or me!) which is canvassed as 'mindreading' by friends but I think is just a survival mechanism. In picking them up, I am also very quick to process and act upon them. And yet when someone insults me with a normal tone of voice, I hear the tone and completely miss the content. It can take days or even weeks and frequently even years of applied analytical thought and measure against external cues to process that and then to act upon it.

I've also had (for various reasons) cognitive function tests which show  a high degree of analytical ability (detecting and predicting patterns, spatial awareness and memory/recall function) and yet a pronounced deficit in sequencing.

Not sure if this information answers the question!
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« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2015, 07:19:51 AM »

I also think the whole approach/avoidance conflict plays a big part in my cognitive processes.
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« Reply #15 on: June 16, 2016, 04:52:08 PM »

HI everyone 

So I worked with a survivor of sexual violence for the last year who was BPD and it was just something else. One thing that really floored me was how she lacked complete and utter self-preservation. I mean here is someone who was assaulted three times, went through a hellish, year-long reporting process, and would just continue going through the system and being completely shocked when things didn't go her way.

For example, she wanted a court protection order from her attacker, so we went to court and then they gave her a date. The court called but she never checked her messages. I told her MULTIPLE times, "you need to call them back, you don't want your lawyer coming only to find it's not happening." Well she never called them back. The day of the date, she goes there with her lawyer and advocate only to find her attacker had asked for an extension. The lawyer was PISSED. Apparently she had a breakdown and then went to her counselor for like two hours.

I don't understand how someone can go through so much and still expect everything to work out for her. It's baffling to me. Is this a sign of high narcissism qualities? What's the root of this behavior?
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