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Author Topic: What is meant by diminished executive function (poor executive control)?  (Read 44814 times)
Randi Kreger
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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.

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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. 

How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.~Anais Nin
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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.

How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.~Anais Nin
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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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